Royal Navy monitors Russian warships passing North East coast

HMS Duncan (centre), observing Russian Kirov Class Battlecruiser (left) and Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, which are part of a Russian task group, during transit through the North Sea.
HMS Duncan (centre), observing Russian Kirov Class Battlecruiser (left) and Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, which are part of a Russian task group, during transit through the North Sea.
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The Royal Navy has been monitoring a Russian war fleet as it entered British waters and passed through the North Sea.

The Russian taskforce, including the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, is being shadowed by the Royal Navy as it heads towards the eastern Mediterranean to bolster thought to be heading to reinforce the attack on the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo.

Royal Navy lookout onboard HMS Richmond, a Type 23 Duke Class frigate, observing a Russian task group during transit through the North Sea.

Royal Navy lookout onboard HMS Richmond, a Type 23 Duke Class frigate, observing a Russian task group during transit through the North Sea.

Theresa May has condemned Vladimir Putin's aggression in Syria and accused Moscow of being behind "sickening atrocities" in support of President Bashar Assad's regime.

Type 45 destroyer HMS Duncan sailed from Portsmouth on Tuesday to "man-mark" the Kuznetsov group, which is heading south through the North Sea and English Channel.

The Type 23 frigate HMS Richmond escorted the group from the Norwegian Sea as it steamed south.

The fleet is expected to pass through the English Channel today

Mininstry of Defence of HMS Richmond (front), a Type 23 Duke Class frigate, observing aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, which is part of a Russian task group, during transit through the North Sea.

Mininstry of Defence of HMS Richmond (front), a Type 23 Duke Class frigate, observing aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, which is part of a Russian task group, during transit through the North Sea.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "When these ships near our waters we will man-mark them every step of the way. We will be watching as part of our steadfast commitment to keep Britain safe."

Syrian forces, backed by Russian air power, have agreed a temporary humanitarian truce in Aleppo but Mrs May urged European leaders to take a firm line against Moscow.

Nato said the prospect of Russia's only aircraft carrier heading to the region does not "inspire confidence" that Moscow is seeking a political solution to the Syrian crisis.

A Nato official said: "Russia has the right to operate in international waters. There are plans in place for Nato navies to monitor the Russian ships as they head for the Mediterranean.

"At the same time, the deployment of the carrier group to the eastern Mediterranean does not inspire confidence that Russia is working towards a political solution to the conflict in Syria."

Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu said in September that the Admiral Kuznetsov-led Northern Fleet would be joining a taskforce in the Mediterranean.

According to the Russian news agency Tass, he told a defence board meeting that the plan was to bolster the Mediterranean fleet's "combat capabilities".

A statement from the fleet to the agency on October 15 said the group also consisted of the Pyotr Velikiy battlecruiser, the Severomorsk anti-submarine ship, the Vice-Admiral Kulakov destroyer and other support vessels.

The statement added: "Special focus will be made on safeguarding security of maritime traffic and other types of maritime economic activity of Russia and also on responding to the new kinds of modern threats such as piracy and international terrorism."

"The Russian fleet that is now sailing from the North, presumably down into the Mediterranean, is clearly designed to test the alliance. It's being marked every step of the way by the Royal Navy and ships and planes of other Nato members as well.

"It's clearly designed ... to test our response, and any weaknesses in the alliance, and we must make sure we respond in due measure. That fleet will be marked, shadowed every inch of the way."