Russian warships enter English Channel for drills in latest show of muscle

A squadron of Russian warships entered the English Channel on Friday to hold exercises, RIA news agency reported, the latest apparent show of military might since ties with the West plunged to Cold War lows over Ukraine. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
A squadron of Russian warships entered the English Channel on Friday to hold exercises, RIA news agency reported, the latest apparent show of military might since ties with the West plunged to Cold War lows over Ukraine. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A squadron of Russian warships entered the English Channel on Friday to hold exercises, RIA news agency reported, the latest apparent show of military might since ties with the West plunged to Cold War lows over Ukraine.

RIA quoted the Northern Fleet as saying its vessels, led by anti-submarine ship Severomorsk, had passed through the Strait of Dover and were now in international waters in the Seine Bay to wait for a storm to pass.

"While it is anchored the crew are undertaking a series of exercises on how to tackle ... infiltrating submarine forces and are training on survival techniques in the case of flooding or fire," RIA quoted the Northern Fleet as saying in a statement.

The Russian navy could not reached for comment and the Defence Ministry declined to comment on the report.

France's navy confirmed the location of the ships and said it was not unusual to have Russian warships in the Channel. "They are not holding exercises. They're just waiting in a zone where they can be several times a year," said the French Navy's information service.

Russia has flexed its military muscle recently, with the NATO military alliance reporting more incursions by Russian fighters and long-range bombers. Sweden scrambled to find a submarine - dubbed by locals "The Hunt for the Reds in October".

The Russian manoeuvres follow months of increasing tensions over Ukraine, where Moscow earlier this year seized and annexed the Crimean Peninsula and has supported armed separatists opposed to the Kiev government.

Most countries on Russia's northwestern flank are planning higher military spending, reversing sharp falls in recent years, after the Ukraine crisis revived Cold War tensions.