UK

Russian Planes And Warships On British Territory Spark Tensions With Moscow

14/04/2015 16:58 BST | Updated 14/04/2015 16:59 BST

Military tensions between the UK and Russia ratcheted up further today after RAF fighter planes were scrambled at the same time as Russian warships were monitored while passing through the English Channel.

Typhoon jets were launched after the Russian military planes were identified flying close to UK airspace, according to the Ministry of Defence.

An MoD spokesman said: "RAF Quick Reaction Alert Typhoon fighter aircraft were launched today after Russian aircraft were identified flying close to UK airspace.

"The Russian planes are being escorted by the RAF in the UK area of interest."

typhoon plane raf

RAF Typhoons were launched in response to Russian aircraft spotted near UK territory

No explanation for the aircraft’s presence have yet been given

A Russian destroyer and two other ships were also "monitored" while passing through the English Channel.

British warship HMS Argyll, based in Plymouth, Devon, kept tabs on the Russian ships, comprising he Udaloy class destroyer Severomorsk, a tanker and a support ship.

The MoD said no exercises were seen, although earlier reports had suggested the vessels were set to carry out military drills.

This is not the first time such incidents have taken place, although it is unusual that both sea vessels and aircraft were spotted on the same day.

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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.

Relationships between Moscow and the international community have come under strain in recent months over the crisis in the Ukraine.

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HMS Argyll is monitoring three Russian ships through the English Channel

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."