Russian Warships Passing Through English Channel Are A Little Close For Comfort

A Russian destroyer and two other ships are being "monitored" through the English Channel.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said the Udaloy class destroyer Severomorsk, a tanker and a support ship passed through the waters while returning from the Mediterranean.

They are being monitored by HMS Argyll and are due to leave later.

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

It follows similar incidents in recent months and comes amid strained relations between Moscow and the international community over the crisis in Ukraine.

Photo issued by the Ministry of Defence of the HMS Argyll monitoring a Russian warship as it passed through the English Channel back in February

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.

On that occasion Yaroslav Mudry and its accompanying tanker, the Kola, were sailing back to Russia after a deployment in the Mediterranean.

British warship HMS Argyll, based in Plymouth, Devon, was deployed and used its Lynx helicopter and sensors to locate and monitor the movement of the Russian ships off the coast of France and through the English Channel.

The vessels are said to be on their way to conduct anti-aircraft and anti-submarine drills in the north Atlantic.

Earlier, reports in Russia had suggested that exercises were planned to take place in the Channel.

HMS Argyll is monitoring three Russian ships through the English Channel

The presence of Russian vessels in the Channel is seen as the latest example of a political message to the West from the Kremlin.

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."

In January, the Russian ambassador was summoned after two Russian Tu-95 "Bears" flew close to British airspace, forcing jets from the Royal Air Force to intercept the aircraft over the English Channel.

According to the Ministry of Defence, that incident was the latest in a series of Russian maneuvers in which planes have flown close to NATO members’ territory.

Tensions between Russia and NATO nations have been high amid fighting between Ukrainian government troops and Russia-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine. NATO said its pilots conducted more than three times as many intercepts of Russian planes in 2014 as the year before.