RUSSIAN WARSHIPS PASS THROUGH THE ENGLISH CHANNEL
Russian warships pass through Channel
Conflicting reports about whether squadron was holding drills in strait of Dover or just waiting out a storm
Haroon Siddique and agencies
The Guardian, Friday 28 November 2014 13.20 GMT
A squadron of Russian warships has passed through the Channel.
State-owned Russian news agency Ria Novosti said crews on the vessels from the Russian navy’s northern fleet were “holding drills” in the strait of Dover on Friday, citing the fleet’s press service. But the Russian defence ministry was quoted by other Russian media as saying its ships entered the Channel to wait out a storm after a week of manoeuvres in the North Sea.
The ministry said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies that a naval destroyer, a landing craft, a rescue tugboat and a tank ship had to anchor in the international waters of the Bay of the Seine, off the coast of France. It said the ships had been conducting naval exercises in the North Sea since 20 November.
The ships’ presence in British waters comes amid tension between the UK and Russia over Vladimir Putin’s backing of separatist rebels in Ukraine. The European Union has imposed a number of sanctions on Russia, including asset freezes and travel bans on individuals.
At the G20 summit earlier this month David Cameron warned Putin that the west’s relations with Russia had reached a crossroads. The prime minister was one of a number of world leaders to take Putin to task over Ukraine and warn him of the prospect of further economic sanctions.
Russia has conducted a variety of exercises since the Kremlin’s annexation of Crimea and its involvement in eastern Ukraine. A recent thinktank report recorded a sharp rise in Russian-Nato military encounters since the annexation, including violations of national airspace and close encounters at sea.
The British Ministry of Defence tweeted on Friday afternoon: “Four Russian ships escorted through Dover Strait from North Sea by @RoyalNavy HMS Tyne this morning. Ships have left UK waters.”