WATCH: Portsmouth warship shadows Russian fleet in the Channel
A FLOTILLA of Russian warships is being shadowed by a naval vessel from Portsmouth as it passes through the Channel.
HMS St Albans is escorting the Russian Admiral Kuznetsov carrier task group back through British waters.
The Russian fleet – which includes a cruiser and salvage tug – is returning back to its home after joining bombing operations in Syria.
Defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon has criticised the Russian warship’s mission, branding the aircraft carrier a ‘ship of shame’.
Portsmouth-based Type 23 frigate St Albans is set to ‘man-mark’ the flotilla, providing reassurance to nations bordering the North Sea and English Channel.
‘We will keep a close eye on the Admiral Kuznetsov as it skulks back to Russia; a ship of shame whose mission has only extended the suffering of the Syrian people,’ said Sir Michael, a former minister for Portsmouth.
‘We are man-marking these vessels every step of the way around the UK as part of our steadfast commitment to keep Britain safe.’
St Albans is equipped with a Merlin helicopter and state-of-the-art radar.
The ship, which has been working alongside RAF typhoon aircraft, will continue to monitor the Russian carrier as she belches thick black smoke on her way through the Channel.
Commander Chris Ansell, commanding officer of St Albans, said: ‘This tasking demonstrates the Royal Navy’s commitment to protecting our home waters and readiness to undertake short notice operations.
‘The movements of the Russian ships are being continually monitored in a co-ordinated response between the Royal Navy, RAF and our NATO partners.
‘As an island nation, the security of the seas around our coastline is vital and this sort of task is routine business for HMS St Albans and the Royal Navy, which stands ready at all times to protect UK territorial waters.
‘My ship’s company of 190 sailors take great pride in the role they play as one of the UK’s on-call warships to deal with this type of situation.’
The Kuznetsov carrier group previously passed through the Channel last autumn on its way to the Mediterranean and was escorted by Type 45 destroyer HMS Duncan and Type 23 frigate HMS Richmond.
Figures, obtained through a Freedom of Information request, revealed this operation to shadow the Russian fleet cost the Royal Navy £1,394,000.
The latest operations come amid tension between the West and the Kremlin.