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Follow the bear – again as HMS St Albans shadows Russian flagship through the Channel
25 January 2017

HMS St Albans is ‘man marking’ the Russian Navy flagship Admiral Kuznetsov and its task group past the UK as the carrier returns from a three-month bombing mission in Syria.

RAF Typhoon jets also joined in the shadowing of the Kuznetsov, escorting cruiser Petr Velikiy and a salvage tug as the trio headed up the Channel.

Pictures: LPhot Dave Jenkins, FRPU East

WE COUNTED them all out… and we counted them all back.

Three months after the Royal Navy ‘man marked’ the Russian Navy’s flagship Admiral Kuznetsov and her task group past the UK, it did so again as the vessel the Defence Secretary branded ‘the ship of shame’ returned from bombing Syria.

HMS St Albans, a Merlin Mk2 from 829 Naval Air Squadron in Culdrose, and RAF Typhoons from Coningsby were the greeting party for the Russian carrier group as it headed up the Channel bound for home waters.

Already tracked by NATO warships on its passage through the Mediterranean and into the Atlantic, the Kuznetsov, nuclear-powered guided missile cruiser Petr Velikiy (Peter the Great) and a salvage tug were met by St Albans as they sailed close to UK territorial waters.

The Saint picked up where her sister Richmond left off in October when she too was alerted to keep a close eye on the passing Russian ships.

Last year saw the liveliest Russian Navy activity around the UK since the end of the Cold War more than a quarter of a century ago according to senior Royal Navy officers.

For St Albans, keeping tabs on the Kuznetsov is a bread-and-butter mission as the Fleet Ready Escort – the vessel on immediate call to respond when needed in and around the UK.

“As an island nation, the security of the seas around our coastline is vital – this sort of task is routine business for HMS St Albans and the Royal Navy, which stands ready at all times to protect the UK’s territorial waters,” said the frigate’s Commanding Officer Cdr Chris Ansell.

“Movements of Russian ships are continually monitored in a co-ordinated response by the Royal Navy, RAF and our NATO partners.”

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said the Navy and Air Force were “man-marking” the Russian task group “every step of the way around the UK as part of our steadfast commitment to keep Britain safe.”

“We are keeping a close eye on the Admiral Kuznetsov as it skulks back to Russia; a ship of shame whose mission has only extended the suffering of the Syrian people.”