Royal Navy patrol vessel shadows Russian warship RFS Boiky as it sails through the English Channel


Royal Navy patrol vessel HMS Mersey shadows Russian warship RFS Boiky as it sails through the English Channel

  • HMS Mersey was scrambled to track Russian ship as it sailed through Channel
  • Navy spokesman said vessels were ‘working to preserve UK’s maritime security’
  • Royal Navy has shadowed Russian ships as relations with Moscow have cooled 

A Royal Navy patrol vessel has shadowed a Russian warship as it sailed through the English Channel amid heightened tensions with Moscow. 

HMS Mersey was on security patrol when it was scrambled to track the Steregushchiy-class corvette RFS Boiky, after taking over from the French Navy.

Portsmouth-based Mersey ‘watched every movement’ as the corvette linked up with  RFS Akademik Pashin, an auxiliary vessel, to refuel and transfer stores. 

HMS Mersey (right) was on security patrol when it was scrambled to track the Steregushchiy-class corvette RFS Boiky, after taking over from the French Navy

Commanding Officer of Mersey Lieutenant Commander Will Edwards-Bannon said: ‘Working to preserve the maritime security of the UK has always been one of the Royal Navy’s very highest priority missions throughout our long history.

‘The need to fulfil this mission hasn’t changed with the coming of the Covid-19 pandemic so, although we are living and working in slightly different ways on board to limit the risk from the virus, HMS Mersey’s fantastic ship’s company continues to work hard to protect our nation’s interests.

‘This work includes the close monitoring of foreign warships operating near to our shores, which is what we … have been doing so far on this patrol.’ 

Portsmouth-based Mersey 'watched every movement' as the corvette linked up with RFS Akademik Pashin, an auxiliary vessel, to refuel and transfer stores

Portsmouth-based Mersey ‘watched every movement’ as the corvette linked up with RFS Akademik Pashin, an auxiliary vessel, to refuel and transfer stores

Royal Navy vessels (pictured, HMS Mersey) have tracked Russian ships sailing through the Channel as relations between Moscow and London cool to their worst since the Cold War

Royal Navy vessels (pictured, HMS Mersey) have tracked Russian ships sailing through the Channel as relations between Moscow and London cool to their worst since the Cold War

What vessels were in the English Channel? 

HMS Mersey – 

– A river-class offshore patrol vessel that weighs 1,700 tonnes, is 260ft long, and sails at 20 knots (23mph).

– She was built by Vosper Thornycroft in Southampton to serve as a fishery protection vessel within the UK’s waters, to replace the five older Island-class patrol vessels in 2003.

– Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Defence Harriet Baldwin said Mersey would be decommissioned in 2019. 

 RFS Boiky – 

– A Steregushchiy-class corvette that weighs 1,800 tonnes, is 343ft long, and sails at 27 knots (31mph). 

– The first vessel of this kind was commissioned in November 2007. They are designed to engage enemy submarines and surface ships.

– An additional order of 10 corvettes was under consideration in 2019, to be laid down at Amur Shipyard and commissioned into the Pacific Fleet, according to Deputy Commander of the Pacific Fleet Igor Korolev. 

The English Channel separates Great Britain from continental Europe. It is the busiest shipping area in the world, at 350 miles long and 21 miles wide at its narrowest with northern France. 

Despite its name, the Channel is an international waterway. This means that foreign ships are allowed to sail through – whether from the Atlantic Ocean out to the North Sea, or vice versa.  

The Royal Navy has tracked Russian ships in the Channel as relations between Moscow and London deteriorate to their worst since the end of the Cold War. 

The British Government has accused two Russian GRU operatives of using chemical weapons in Salisbury in 2018.  

It claims that Russia has behaved in an aggressive and destabilising manner since its war with Georgia, which it invaded in 2008. That conflict – the culmination of a years-long effort by NATO and the EU to deneutralise Georgia and flip it to the Western camp – led to the secession of two provinces.   

In 2014, Russia annexed Crimea in Ukraine, and helped to fuel that country’s civil war by supplying money and weapons to separatists fighting in the south and east of Ukraine. The annexation of Crimea by the Russian Armed Forces was triggered by the deposition of the pro-Moscow Government by Euromaidan protestors committed to taking Ukraine into the EU.  

Russia has also found itself at loggerheads with the US, Britain, and France in Syria, where it has supported Bashar al-Assad with airpower since 2015. 

It has been accused by Western powers of attacking hospitals and civilian sites in rebel-held enclaves of the country, though a recent UN ruling that apportioned blame on the Assad regime did not name its allies Russia and Iran. 

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