A British warship was scrambled to shadow a Russian frigate as it sailed near UK waters in a tense Christmas Day military standoff, the Royal Navy has revealed.
HMS St Albans shadowed the Admiral Gorsdhkov’s “activity in areas of national interest”, the navy said, adding there has been a recent “upsurge in Russian units transiting UK waters”.
The troubling development was reminiscent of the cold war between the former Soviet Union and the west.
“I will not hesitate in defending our waters or tolerate any form of aggression,” Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said.
The Admiral Gorshkov, a new guided-missile frigate, is still undergoing trials, Russian media reported.
The standoff comes after Britain recently warned of a possible threat posed by Russia to undersea internet cables between Europe and the US.
HMS St Albans was sent on Saturday to “keep watch on the new Russian warship Admiral Gorshkov as it passed close to UK territorial waters”, the Royal Navy said in a statement.
The British frigate remained at sea on Monday local time, monitoring the Russian vessel, and was due to return to Portsmouth on Tuesday.
“Britain will never be intimidated when it comes to protecting our country, our people, and our national interests,” Mr Williamson said
The Admiral Gorshkov is the first of a new class of multi-role frigates, but is yet to complete missile tests before entering service with the Russian navy next year, Russian media report.
The warship has reportedly been sailing regularly between the White Sea off Russia’s northern coast and the Baltic.
Reports on the interception did not make clear in what direction the Russian ship was heading.
Russian warships have used the international waters of the North Sea in recent times to sail to and from the Mediterranean for deployment off Syria.
Relations between Britain and Russia have remained tense since Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in 2014.
Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, the chief of the UK’s defence staff, earlier this month said that Britain and Nato needed to prioritise protecting communication and internet cables.
Air Marshall Peach was quoted by the BBC as warning that a modernised Russian navy could strike a “catastrophic” blow to the world economy by targeting the undersea cables.
– With agencies