The Royal Navy frigate HMS Westminster is today escorting a Russian military task group through the English Channel and areas of UK interest.
The Portsmouth-based Type 23 frigate was activated on Friday (5 Jan 18) to sail and keep watch on two Russian warships and two supporting vessels as they passed close to UK territorial waters in stormy conditions.
HMS Westminster remained at sea over the weekend to meet up with the Russian vessels, keeping track of their activities in areas of Britain’s national interest. The Royal Navy warship will remain with the two Steregushchiy-class frigates Soobrazitelny and Boiky and support vessels Paradoks and Kola as they head north.
Commander Simon Kelly, the Commanding Officer of HMS Westminster, said: “HMS Westminster’s role as the Royal Navy’s Fleet Ready Escort is to be at very high readiness to respond to anything the British government requires.
“While today most people are returning to work for the first time in the New Year, HMS Westminster’s ship’s company has been at sea and at readiness as part of the Royal Navy’s commitment to keep Britain safe at all times.
“The English Channel is an absolute lifeline for the UK, and it is very important HMS Westminster and the Royal Navy maintains a watchful eye on this key strategic link.”
The four Russian ships are believed to be returning to the Baltic after operations in the Middle East. The English Channel is one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, and with UK shipping contributing more than £10bn to Britain’s economy it is essential the Royal Navy maintains security in its waters.
It comes after Royal Navy frigate HMS St Albans spent her Christmas at sea escorting another Russian warship, the Admiral Gorshkov. The recent festive season has seen an upsurge in Russian units transiting UK waters.
HMS Tyne was also called to escort a different vessel, a Russian intelligence-gathering ship, through the North Sea and the English Channel on Christmas Eve. A Wildcat helicopter from 815 Naval Air Squadron, based at RNAS Yeovilton, was then dispatched to monitor two further Russian vessels.
As a high-readiness unit, HMS Westminster may be called upon at any time to help prevent arms trafficking, people smuggling, conduct counter-terrorism operations, maritime search and rescue, or escort duties like those she is undertaking today.
She is equipped with a Merlin helicopter of Culdrose-based 829 Naval Air Squadron, state-of-the-art radar, and the Royal Navy’s new Sea Ceptor missile system. She assumed the role of the Royal Navy’s Fleet Ready Escort at the start of the year.