Portsmouth warship shadows Russian task force through the Channel

SAILORS on a Portsmouth warship have escorted a Russian military task group through the English Channel.

Monday, 8th January 2018, 4:22 pm
Updated Monday, 8th January 2018, 4:53 pm
HMS Westminster (foreground) with the Russian frigate Boiky in the background

Royal Navy frigate HMS Westminster was deployed on Friday to monitor the two Russian warships and two supporting vessels as the passed close to UK territorial waters in stormy conditions.

The Type 23 shadowed the two Steregushchiy-class frigates Soobrazitelny and Boiky and support vessels Paradoks and Kola over the weekend and will continue to do so as they head north out of British waters.

Commander Simon Kelly, Westminster’s captain, said: ‘HMS Westminster’s role as the Royal Navy’s fleet ready escort is to be at very high readiness to respond to anything the British government requires.

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HMS Westminster (foreground) with the Russian frigate Boiky in the background

‘While today most people are returning to work for the first time in the New Year, HMS Westminster’s ship’s company has been at sea and at readiness as part of the Royal Navy’s commitment to keep Britain safe at all times.

‘The English Channel is an absolute lifeline for the UK, and it is very important HMS Westminster and the Royal Navy maintains a watchful eye on this key strategic link.’

The four Russian ships are believed to be returning to the Baltic after operations in the Middle East.

The English Channel is one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, and with UK shipping contributing more than £10bn to Britain’s economy it is essential the Royal Navy maintains security in its waters.

HMS Westminster (foreground) with the Russian frigate Boiky in the background

It comes after Royal Navy frigate HMS St Albans spent her Christmas at sea escorting another Russian warship, the Admiral Gorshkov.

The recent festive season has seen an upsurge in Russian units transiting UK waters, the Royal Navy added.

HMS Tyne was also called to escort a different vessel, a Russian intelligence-gathering ship, through the North Sea and the English Channel on Christmas Eve.

A Wildcat helicopter from 815 Naval Air Squadron, based at RNAS Yeovilton, was then dispatched to monitor two further Russian vessels.

As a high-readiness unit, HMS Westminster may be called upon at any time to help prevent arms trafficking, people smuggling, conduct counter-terrorism operations, maritime search and rescue, or escort duties like those she is undertaking today.

She is equipped with a Merlin helicopter of Culdrose-based 829 Naval Air Squadron, state-of-the-art radar, and the Royal Navy’s new Sea Ceptor missile system.

She assumed the role of the Royal Navy’s Fleet Ready Escort at the start of the year.