UK maintains ‘vigilance’ against Russian ships in North Sea, says minister

·2-min read

The UK will maintain “vigilance” in the North Sea in response to alleged Russian spy ships operating near offshore energy infrastructure, a minister has said.

Baroness Goldie said the activities of Russian vessels suspected of gathering intelligence will be watched closely.

It comes after a joint investigation earlier this month by European broadcasters claimed a Russian ship called the Admiral Vladimirsky was part of an operation to map undersea infrastructure.

‘Admiral Vladimirsky' (DR)
‘Admiral Vladimirsky' (DR)

At a meeting of the North Atlantic Council Conservative peer Baroness Goldie, a defence minister, told PA news agency the UK has deployed HMS Somerset to be in the vicinity of Admiral Vladimirsky.

She said: “We take that presence very seriously, as do our Nato allies, and we all have a role to play.

“The United Kingdom deployed one of our vessels, HMS Somerset, to be in the vicinity.

“We do constantly track and monitor the activity of vessels like these Russian purported-to-be fishing vessels but may be something very different.

“We are constantly aware of what they are doing.

“The important thing is for the Russians to understand there’s constant surveillance, there’s this vigilance on the part of not just the UK, but our Nato allies.

Baroness Goldie, defence minister (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Baroness Goldie, defence minister (Andrew Milligan/PA)

“We are aware of their activity, the Russians know that.

“We’re very vigilant about ensuring that if we detected any potential risk to critical subsea infrastructure, then appropriate action would be taken.”

Admiral Vladimirsky is officially a research vessel but Danish journalists filmed an armed man in military gear on its deck.

The report claimed the ship sailed around the Baltic Sea and the North Sea for a month, passing current and future wind farms off the coast of several Scandinavian countries, as well as the Moray Firth.

The broadcasters say that the ship is part of a fleet of espionage boats, disguised as fishing trawlers and scientific research vessels, which is examining key energy sites for possible sabotage.

The ship is thought to have entered the Moray Firth, off the coast of Scotland, on November 10 last year.

Dozens of military leaders gathered at the Clyde base for a meeting of Nato’s North Atlantic Council and military committee.

Baroness Goldie addressed the meeting and reiterated the UK’s commitment to its nuclear deterrent, the Vanguard-class submarines based at Faslane.

The Tory peer also confirmed the name of the Royal Navy’s new multi-role ocean surveillance vessel will be RFA Proteus, which will be tasked with monitoring undersea infrastructure. It shares a name with a US Navy ship which was based at Faslane in the 1960s.

The conservative peer also praised the work of the military in evacuating British nationals from Sudan, with around 900 people returned so far.

She said: “We all understand it’s a complex, fast-moving and dangerous environment.

“As an MoD minister I’ve watched with pride as the MoD again steps up to the plate.”