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Royal Navy frigate shadows Russian warship in English Channel

HMS St Albans is keeping watch on the Slava-class cruiser Marshal Ustinov.

A Royal Navy frigate has been scrambled to shadow a Russian warship travelling through the English Channel.

Portsmouth-based HMS St Albans has been tasked with keeping watch on the Russian Slava-class cruiser Marshal Ustinov.

A navy spokesman said: “The Russian unit – accompanied by an auxiliary ship and tug – recently left the Mediterranean and was tracked by allied French naval warships through the Bay of Biscay.

“As the current fleet ready escort, HMS St Albans is the Royal Navy’s very high readiness ship which is charged with protecting the integrity of UK waters.

“And she was therefore prepared to monitor the Russians as they entered the Channel, taking over the watch from the French warships.”

Commander John Cromie, the commanding officer of HMS St Albans, said: “In this instance the interaction between St Albans and Marshal Ustinov has proven both cordial and professional, reflecting the mutual understanding of customs that exist between professional mariners.

“My crew are however trained to the very highest standard and are prepared to respond to any eventuality.”

The Type 23 frigate has deployed its Merlin helicopter to observe the movements of the task group as it navigates along the south coast of the UK and will continue to monitor it until it has left UK territorial waters.

The commanding officer of the Royal Navy’s aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth has spoken of the “eye-watering” level of Russian naval activity in the Atlantic region in recent years.

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HMS St Albans (PA)

Prior to setting sail from Portsmouth in August, Captain Jerry Kyd said: “The increase in Russian activity we have seen in the last couple of years is frightening and for national security reasons it just underlines why we need to maintain a balanced, strong and able, capable fleet.”

On August 7, Type 45 destroyer HMS Diamond sailed from Dover, Kent, to monitor the Russian destroyer Severomorsk and the Marshal Ustinov.

At the beginning of the year, frigate HMS Westminster was dispatched to keep track of the activities of two Russian frigates and their support vessels returning to the Baltic after operations in the Middle East, while HMS St Albans monitored the new Russian warship Admiral Gorshkov at Christmas.

And in June, HMS Diamond and a Wildcat helicopter from 815 Naval Air Squadron at RNAS Yeovilton were dispatched to follow the underwater reconnaissance ship Yantar after it approached the UK coast.

The RAF is also involved in monitoring Russian activity. In January, two Russian Blackjack bombers were intercepted by the RAF over the North Sea.

Two RAF Typhoon fighter jets were scrambled from RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland but the Russian aircraft did not enter sovereign UK airspace.

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