Russian warships in English Channel for "drills"
RUSSIAN warships have entered the English Channel and are planning to conduct military drills near the coast of Britain, it has been reported.
As the ships passed through the Channel, the Ministry of Defence said RAF Typhoon jets were scrambled when Russian military planes were identified flying close to UK airspace.
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Officials from the Russian Defence Ministry's were quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying the warships belonged to Russia's Northern Fleet, which sparked controversy with a similar move last November.
According to the official, the ships were to pass through the Channel on their way to holding anti-aircraft and anti-submarine defence drills in the northern Atlantic.
A spokesperson for the MoD said the Russian ships were being supervised during their passage by the HMS Argyll, and that it had witnessed no military drills being carried out.
It is not unusual for Russian ships to pass the British coast but the latest incident comes amid heightened international tensions.
Last time a squadron from the Russian navy passed through the Channel on 28 November last year it was tailed by a Royal Navy patrol boat.
Nato was then forced to deny any security risk after Northern Fleet commanders were quoted by the RIA news agency boasting about "undertaking a series of exercises" while anchored off the UK.
And James Nixey, head of the Russia and Eurasia Programme at Chatham House, said that while the Channel is a legitimate shipping lane "these things aren't done by accident".
"Russia is trying to show it has got full spectrum capability warfare," he said.
"It is not a prelude to war but it is a reminder that Russia likes to use - that it is a power to be reckoned with, not a fading power, which might be closer to the reality."