Ships fly so called courtesy flags in foreign waters as a token of respect. Russian ships have always adhered to this rule, retired Admiral Igor Kasatonov, who served as the commander of the Black Sea Fleet, told the Rossiyskaya Gazeta newspaper in December after the Saratov landing ship did not display the Turkish flag while crossing the straits.
Geostrategic analyst Nejat Tarakçı referred to the Aleksandr Otrakovsky's decision to fly the Turkish flag as a positive development.
"When military vessels pass through Turkey's territorial waters or enter Turkish ports, they are not obligated to fly the flag of the host country," he explained. This move, if intentional, could then be interpreted as "a gesture of friendship."
Retired Сapt. 1st Rank İsmet Hergünşen shared the sentiment, saying that the decision could be viewed as a sign that relations between Russia and Turkey are warming up. He added that the courtesy flag could not have been displayed without the captain knowing about it.
For instance, as many as four boats and a helicopter escorted the Minsk large landing ship when it transited through the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles, the media outlet detailed. In March, the Novocherkassk ship was escorted by two patrol boats, a coastal patrol ship and a police helicopter, the Kommersant newspaper reported, citing Turkish media.