Russian warships escorted through English Channel amid tensions over Syria

Patrick Grafton-Green
The Steregushchiy-class corvette Boiky, one of two Russian warships which will be escorted by Royal Navy ship: PA

Russian warships will be escorted through the English Channel by the Royal Navy after they were spotted in the North Sea headed towards Dover.

HMS Sutherland will escort Vladimir Putin’s ships on Saturday night as they sail close to UK territorial waters.

The Steregushchiy-class corvettes Soobrazitelny and Boiky, which have been joined by a Russian support tanker and ocean-going tug, were located by the Plymouth-based frigate on Friday morning.

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said: "HMS Sutherland is carefully marking these Russian ships as they pass close to UK waters.

One of two Russian warships which will be escorted by Royal Navy ship HMS Sutherland (PA)

"The Royal Navy maintains a vigilant watch and is always ready to keep Britain safe."

It comes at a time of heightened-tension with Russia, with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and his French counterpart, Jean-Marc Ayrault, criticising the country for vetoing a UN Security Council resolution on Syria.

They accused Moscow and Tehran of covering up details of Bashar Assad's chemical weapons use.

HMS Sutherland, which will escort two Russian warships as they pass through the English Channel (PA)

Commander Andrew Canale, Commanding Officer of HMS Sutherland, said: "As one of the Royal Navy's high-readiness units, HMS Sutherland is required to escort warships that approach the UK and this task is considered routine business for us.

"It is vitally important the Royal Navy demonstrates its presence and commitment to the integrity of UK territorial waters as we work around the clock to secure the seas of our island nation."

The Royal Navy frigate was designed to deal with the Soviet submarine threat, but now acts as a high-readiness unit and can be called upon for escort duties, marine search and rescue, or to conduct counter-terrorism operations.

In January, HMS St Albans escorted Russian carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, battlecruiser Petr Velikiy and a tug as they passed close to UK territorial waters.

The RAF and Navy were also scrambled several times last year to escort Russian aircraft and ships near the UK.

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