A group of Russian Navy warships from the service’s Northern Fleet are about to enter the English Channel, ahead of their planned participation in a controversial series of live-fire exercises planned off the southern coast -West of Ireland. The ships, centered around three warships, will not be the first from the Russian Navy to cross the English Channel in recent weeks, having been preceded by the six amphibious warfare ships which left the Baltic Sea last month before enter the Mediterranean Sea, as well as a pair of Steregushchiy Baltic Fleet class corvettes which apparently entered the Atlantic via the English Channel today.
Publicly available maritime tracking data shows the position of one of the Northern Fleet’s support vessels in the latest flotilla, the vessel in question being the supply tanker Viazmawhose AIS (Automatic Identification System) transponder is switched on and which, as of today, was en route in the North Sea off the east coast of England, apparently preparing to enter the English Channel.
the Viazma means accompanied by three surface fighters, the Slava class cruiser
Marshal Ustinovthe Udaloy class destructor Vice Admiral Kulakovand the Admiral Gorchkov class frigate
Admiral Kastanov. Two other support vessels are also part of the group, the supply tanker Kama and the salvage tug SB-406. Not-confirmed reports suggest that a nuclear-powered submarine is also part of the group.
The Northern Fleet flotilla had previously entered the Barents Sea on January 22 and was met the next day off the coast of Finnmark by the Norwegian Coastguard Offshore Patrol Vessel. Andenes. From there the flotilla progressed only slowly, hampered by bad weather, with storms and high waves, and then entered the Norwegian Sea on 25 January. In transit between the Barents Sea and the Norwegian Sea, the flotilla was followed by a Royal Norwegian Air Force P-3C Orion Maritime Patrol Aircraft, which took the following photographs, and the photo at the top of this story.
The responsibility for monitoring the flotilla was then apparently transferred to Denmark, which sent the Iver Eightfeldt to classify the frigate HDMS Peter Willemoes, currently part of Standing NATO Maritime Group 1, to track Russian ships. At one point, based on maritime tracking data, it appeared that the Danish warship was indeed in the path of the Russian flotilla. However, it should be noted that the accuracy of this type of publicly available data can be imprecise, meaning that it is possible that NATO and Russian ships remained at a safe distance from each other. others throughout. As far as we know, neither side has filed a formal complaint about the other’s activities.
The flotilla’s final destination would be in Ireland’s Economic Exclusion Zone (EEZ) about 150 miles off the southwest coast of that country, but outside Irish territorial waters. Here, a live-fire exercise is scheduled between February 5 and 8. These drills have been variously described as artillery drills or “rocket firing”, although Russian officials have not confirmed whether missiles will be launched or not.
These exercises are part of a much larger series of exercises that the Russian Navy is planning, with the participation of all four fleets, and about 140 surface fighters and supply ships.
Although there is no indication that these exercises are linked in any way to a possible new Russian military intervention in Ukraine, as has been widely feared in recent months, it is feared that at least some of the ships involved in the parties Europeans in the exercise could eventually head to the Black Sea, which would put them in an ideal position to support a possible action against Ukraine.
This is particularly the case for the six amphibious warfare ships which are currently traveling in the Mediterranean, having also transited through the English Channel. Previously, three of these ships had been the cause of some concern in the Baltic, leading Sweden to increase its manpower and armor on the strategically important island of Gotland. Again, there is no evidence that these ships are heading for the Black Sea, although it is clear that they could play an important role in a possible amphibious operation against targets in southern Ukraine.
As for the Northern Fleet flotilla which should now cross the English Channel, it could possibly head further south and also end up in the Mediterranean.
Meanwhile, Irish and Russian officials have made a succession of statements regarding upcoming live-fire exercises.
At a press conference, Russian Ambassador to Ireland Yury Filatov declared that there is “no cause for concern” and dismissed media attention to the maneuvers as part of an “ongoing propaganda campaign by the United States and its NATO allies “directed against Russia.
“It is in no way a threat to Ireland or anyone else. No harm is intended, no trouble is intended,” Filatov said.
Meanwhile, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney noted the Russian drills were “unwelcome”.
At one point, Irish fishermen had said they planned to peacefully disrupt the Russian Navy’s war games, which will take place in lucrative fishing grounds, using a fleet of up to 60 trawlers. Now, after talks held in Dublin, a buffer zone will be used for the firing campaign, ensuring a distance of 37 to 49 miles between the Russian and Irish ships. However, this still needs to be approved by the Russian government.
Video of a previous Northern Fleet live-fire exercise from 2017: