HMS Westminster watching RFN Cruiser Marshal Ustinov

Three Royal Navy warships have been on a concerted operation shadowing a Russian Navy task force in waters close to the UK.

Type 23 frigates HMS Westminster, HMS Lancaster and HMS Richmond tracked Slava-class cruiser, Marshal Ustinov – the sister ship of the ill-fated Moskva which sunk in the Black Sea in April – and Udaloy-class destroyer, Vice-Admiral Kulakov, plus their tanker Vyazma.

The British ships tracked the Russian task group as they made their journey home from the eastern Mediterranean after supporting Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine since February.

The frigates and their helicopters used an array of cutting-edge sensors and modern naval technology to keep close watch in the Celtic Sea and through the English Channel.

HMS Westminster’s Commanding Officer, Commander Ed Moss-Ward, said: “Maritime security in the sea areas around the UK is crucial to our prosperity and resilience.

“The Royal Navy routinely responds to escort warships in UK territorial waters and the adjacent sea areas to ensure compliance with maritime law, to deter malign activity and to protect our national interests.

“Escorting the Russian task group has demonstrated that the Royal Navy is committed to maintaining maritime security and to co-operating with our NATO Allies.”

HMS Lancaster shadowed the Russian ships from the Strait of Gibraltar to the Celtic Sea as part of NATO’s fast response task force in the Atlantic (Standing NATO Maritime Task Group 1).

“Working together allows NATO allies to respond to security challenges at pace and collectively deter potential aggressors,” said Commander Tom Johnson, Commanding Officer of HMS Lancaster.

“Exchange of personnel further deepens NATO cohesion and interoperability so that the alliance can swiftly and efficiently react to any threat. Lancaster’s team work exceptionally hard to ensure we are always ready to respond to any threat at a moment’s notice.”

HMS Westminster deployed from Portsmouth to intercept the Russian ships in the Celtic Sea, where they paused, dispersing up to 60 nautical miles while the Marshal Ustinov was refuelled by the tanker Vyazma.

HMS Richmond was called upon to keep watch in the English Channel.

Commanding Officer, Commander Chris L’Amie said: “At short notice, HMS Richmond intercepted the Russian Federation Navy’s Surface Action Group in the English Channel. We will closely monitor the task group’s activity whilst demonstrating the UK’s resolve, and the capability and professionalism of the Royal Navy.”

Meanwhile, as this operation was underway, Royal Navy patrol ship HMS Mersey shadowed Russian military research vessel Akademik Ioffe on its journey south through the Dover shipping lanes and into the Channel.