ROYAL Navy sailors monitored a squadron of Russian warships as they passed the coastline after carrying out exercises in the North Sea.
The destroyer Severomorsk, a landing craft, a rescue tugboat and a tank ship have anchored off the coast of northern France, to wait out a storm, according to a Russian defence ministry statement.
The Royal Navy was aware of the ships’ presence and Portsmouth-based HMS Tyne monitored and escorted the squadron as it moved from the North Sea on Tuesday down through the Strait of Dover, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said.
Patrol ship HMS Tyne finished shadowing the Russian vessels after they passed out of the UK’s area of responsibility into the French zone.
It is understood that the Russian vessels complied with all maritime reporting regulations and defence sources said they expected the ships to head to the Mediterranean.
An MoD spokesman said: ‘We are aware that four Russian naval ships have passed through the Dover Strait from the North Sea into the English Channel, which all ships have the right to do under international law.
‘The ships were escorted by the Royal Navy warship HMS Tyne as part of her UK maritime security role and have now left UK waters.’
The Russians ships’ presence comes at a time of heightened tension between Moscow and the West and follows a G20 summit at which Vladimir Putin came under international pressure over the Ukraine crisis.
France’s president Francois Hollande this week suspended the planned delivery of a warship to Russia, citing the current situation in eastern Ukraine.
It is not unusual for Russian ships to pass through the English Channel but they are usually monitored by Royal Navy vessels as they do so.
In May a Russian aircraft carrier and a battle cruiser passed through the English Channel, with HMS Dragon tracking their movements.