British navy escorts several Russian warships off coast amid new 'provocations'
THE British Royal Navy monitored a series of Russian warships around Britain over Christmas, as the Defence Secretary said Britain would not be intimidated.
HMS St Albans escorted the frigate Admiral Gorshkov off the north coast of Scotland, while HMS Tyne shadowed a spy ship through the North Sea.
The Ministry of Defence reported “an upsurge in Russian units transiting UK waters” with the Navy monitoring four different vessels.
Gavin Williamson said: “I will not hesitate in defending our waters or tolerate any form of aggression.
"Britain will never be intimidated when it comes to protecting our country, our people, and our national interests."
Russia is entitled to sail through UK and international waters around Britain according to the law of the sea, but Naval sources said the visits are often considered deliberately provocative at a time of frosty relations with Nato.
The Portsmouth-based frigate HMS St Albans escorted the Admiral Gorshkov as it passed close to UK territorial waters near the Moray Firth headed towards the Baltic in the early hours of Christmas Day.
HMS Tyne escorted a Russian intelligence-gathering ship through the North Sea and the English Channel on Christmas Eve, while a Wildcat helicopter from 815 Naval Air Squadron, based at RNAS Yeovilton, monitored two further Russian vessels.
Cdr Chris Ansell, commanding officer of HMS St Albans, said: “Missing parts of Christmas and New Year with our families is never easy, but it is absolutely required as part of our duty to keep Britain safe all year round.
“Christmas Eve saw some particularly exciting and bumpy weather, with some of my newer sailors getting used to their sea legs, but we have made sure the job was done and I will get my team back home as soon as possible.
At total of 1,540 sailors were deployed over Christmas, while thousands of soldiers and airmen were also deployed, including 950 in Estonia and Poland and 1,500 battling Islamic State group in the Middle East.