Admiral Kuznetsov, Russia's largest warship, led a group of six other aircraft carriers last night in the English Channel. The Royal Navy dispatched the British warship HMS Dragon from Portsmouth to escort the Russian fleet. According to a Royal Navy spokesman, the task group did not enter territorial waters of the United Kingdom, which extend 12 nautical miles from the country's coast.
It is believed that the Russian warships have been returning to a naval base in Severomorsk (northwest Russia) after manoeuvres in the Mediterranean. The same task group passed through the English Channel in December, but in opposite direction. Their returning was reported last month by the website Voice of Russia.
A spokesman with the Royal Navy confirmed that HMS Dragon had been activated as an escort vessel and she had met the group led by Admiral Kuznetsov.
The Minister for the Armed Forces, Mark Francois, said:
"This routine action by HMS Dragon, in her capacity as the Fleet Ready Escort, once again underlines the professionalism and credibility of the Royal Navy in keeping the whole of the UK secure at and from the sea."
The commanding officer of HMS Dragon, Captain Rex Cox, commented:
"Following our recent activation HMS Dragon has once more monitored a Russian task group through the UK's areas of interest. This is very much routine business both for HMS Dragon and for the Royal Navy.
"What is different here is that a Russian task group of this size has not passed by our shores in some time. Cutting edge, extremely capable and very versatile, a Type 45 Destroyer, such as HMS Dragon, is the ideal ship for the job."
According to Philip Hammond, Defence Secretary, the operation was pre-planned and the decision had been taken ten days ago upon receiving information about the planned route of the Russian fleet. He also added that the British warship had taken over from a French warship, which escorted the Russian fleet through the Bay of Biscay and would hand over to the Norwegian Navy.