Royal Navy tracks Russian ships through English Channel

File picture from the Royal Navy shows HMS Argyll

File picture from the Royal Navy shows HMS Argyll

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A Russian destroyer and two other ships are being monitored through the English Channel by the Royal Navy.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said the Udaloy class destroyer Severomorsk, a tanker and a support ship passed through the waters while returning from the Mediterranean.

It is not a prelude to war but it is a reminder that Russia likes to remind us of - that it is a power to be reckoned with, not a fading power, which might be closer to the reality.

James Nixey

They are being monitored by HMS Argyll and are due to leave later. The MoD said no exercises were seen. Earlier reports had suggested the vessels were set to carry out military drills.

It follows similar incidents in recent months and comes amid strained relations between Moscow and the international community over the crisis in Ukraine.

In November the Royal Navy monitored a squadron of Russian warships as they moved through the Strait of Dover after carrying out exercises in the North Sea.

Then in February a Russian warship was tracked as it passed through the English Channel.

On that occasion Yaroslav Mudry and its accompanying tanker, the Kola, were sailing back to Russia after a deployment in the Mediterranean.

HMS Argyll was deployed and used its Lynx helicopter and sensors to locate and monitor the movement of the Russian ships off the coast of France and through the English Channel.

The vessels are said to be on their way to conduct anti-aircraft and anti-submarine drills in the north Atlantic.

The presence of Russian vessels in the Channel is seen as the latest example of a political message to the West from the Kremlin.

James Nixey, head of the Russia and Eurasia Programme at Chatham House, said the Channel is a ‘legitimate shipping lane’ but added: ‘Equally, these things aren’t done by accident.

‘Russia is trying to show it has got full spectrum capability warfare.

‘It is not a prelude to war but it is a reminder that Russia likes to remind us of - that it is a power to be reckoned with, not a fading power, which might be closer to the reality.

‘It can tell us that with a degree of braggadocio.’

Earlier this year RAF fighters were scrambled after two Russian bombers were spotted in the skies off the south of England.

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