Russia warns it is 'tracking' £1bn Royal Navy destroyer HMS Dragon in the Black Sea
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Portsmouth-based HMS Dragon entered the contested sea over the weekend as part of the Type 45 destroyer’s latest deployment with Nato allies to provide security and reassurance in the region.
But Russian state media has reported the warship’s arrival has worried military chiefs in Moscow and that Russia’s Black Sea Fleet is now monitoring Dragon.
‘The Black Sea Fleet’s forces and capabilities have started to track the UK Navy’s destroyer Dragon that entered the Black Sea on October 4, 2020,’ claimed military news site, UK Defence Journal.
The stance has since been brushed off by a leading academic, who claimed Moscow’s actions were ‘just words’.
Dr Paul Flenley, a senior lecturer in politics and international relations at the University of Portsmouth, said the comments were the Kremlin’s way of trying to assert military dominance in the region.
‘From the point of view of Russia, there’s a general nervousness about any attempts to demonstrate military power close to its borders,’ he said.
‘It’s part of a long narrative that Putin and the Russians have of the West coming closer and closer to Russia’s borders.
‘They might find some way of drawing one of their warships closer to show they’re aware of what they see as a provocation.
‘But these things have been going on in the air for sometime. Up close engagements around the Baltic and in northern Europe. It’s an extension of those kinds of sabre rattling displays that have been going on in northern Europe down to the Black Sea.’
The Black Sea has been a contested region following Russia’s annexation of the Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
Since then, Russia has taken an aggressive stance on Western powers operating in the region.
Footage of the encounter was recorded by a film crew as part of Channel 5’s documentary, Warship: Life at Sea.
Dr Flenley added the Kremlin remained concerned over Ukraine joining Nato and the ramifications that could have for Russia’s control in the region.
‘What Russia didn’t want was a Nato naval base replacing theirs in the Crimea,’ he added. ‘I would imagine this latest warning is part of that narrative of insecurity and seeing any attempt to move naval ships close to their borders as a threat.’
Stephen Morgan, Portsmouth South MP, said it was ‘expected that adversarial states issue warnings and monitor behaviour’ of ships like Dragon.
‘Comments from Russia are however a reminder of the risks and threats faced by the UK and confirms that government must not use the imminent defence review as a cost-cutting exercise,’ he added. ‘A well-funded, well-resourced and properly staffed armed forces are crucial to maintaining Britain’s safe place in the world.’
The Montreux Convention allows non-Black Sea states warships to remain in the region for 21 days.
Last night a former head of the Royal Navy, Admiral Lord Alan West claimed Russia was ‘terrified’ of a carrier strike group.
It followed the coming together of Britain’s new carrier force in the North Sea, which has been touted as the most powerful, European-led task group.
The News has approached the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation for comment.