UK maintains ‘vigilance’ against Russian ships in North Sea – minister

Baroness Goldie said their activities are being closely watched by the UK, and Nato.

The UK will maintain “vigilance” in the North Sea in response to alleged Russian spy ships operating near offshore energy infrastructure, a minister has said.

Baroness Goldie said the activities of Russian vessels suspected of gathering intelligence will be watched closely.

Earlier this month, a joint investigation by European broadcasters claimed a Russian ship called the Admiral Vladimirsky was part of an operation to map undersea infrastructure.

According to the report, the ship sailed around the Baltic Sea and the North Sea for a month, passing current and future wind farms off the coast of several Scandinavian countries, as well as the Moray Firth.

Admiral Vladimirsky is officially a research vessel but Danish journalists filmed an armed man in military gear on its deck.

Baroness Goldie, a defence minister, spoke to the PA news agency at Faslane naval base on the Clyde, as military leaders from Nato countries gathered for a regular meeting of the North Atlantic Council.

Asked about the reports of Russian activity in the North Sea, she said: “We take that presence very seriously, as do our Nato allies, and we all have a role to play.

“The United Kingdom deployed one of our vessels, HMS Somerset, to be in the vicinity.

“We do constantly track and monitor the activity of vessels like these Russian purported-to-be fishing vessels but may be something very different.

“We are constantly aware of what they are doing.

“The important thing is for the Russians to understand there’s constant surveillance, there’s this vigilance on the part of not just the UK, but our Nato allies.

“We are aware of their activity, the Russians know that.

“We’re very vigilant about ensuring that if we detected any potential risk to critical subsea infrastructure, then appropriate action would be taken.”

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The Russian ship passed near wind farms (Anna Gowthorpe/PA)

Baroness Goldie also praised the work of the military in evacuating British nationals from Sudan, with around 900 people returned so far.

She said: “We all understand it’s a complex, fast-moving and dangerous environment.

“As an MoD minister I’ve watched with pride as the MoD again steps up to the plate.”

Dozens of military leaders gathered at the Clyde base for a meeting of Nato’s North Atlantic Council and military committee.

Baroness Goldie addressed the meeting and reiterated the UK’s commitment to its nuclear deterrent, the Vanguard-class submarines based at Faslane.

The Tory peer also confirmed the name of the Royal Navy’s new multi-role ocean surveillance vessel will be RFA Proteus.

This type of vessel will be tasked with monitoring undersea infrastructure.

It shares a name with a US Navy ship which was based at Faslane in the 1960s.

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