Four Russian warships entered the English Channel last Friday, laying down anchor and conducting a series of what the Russians called training drills, including a rehearsal of tactical moves designed to combat Western submarines. But NATO and the British government attempted to play down the Russian channel entry and France denied that any training took place.
The quartet of warships was spearheaded by the massive Russian anti-submarine vessel Severomorsk, as well as a tanker, tugboat and an amphibious vessel, and ran what the Russian Defense Ministry called "a series of exercises on how to tackle infiltrating submarine forces and training on survival techniques in the case of flooding or fire."
But a British Royal Navy source told that country's Telegraph newspaper that the Russian warship maneuvers were "not provocative," and that the British were "keeping an eye on" the Russians in the Channel.
"We are aware that four Russian naval ships have passed through the Dover Strait from the North Sea into the English Channel, which all ships have the right to do under international law," a British Ministry of Defense spokesperson said Friday. "The ships were escorted by the Royal Navy warship HMS Tyne as part of her UK maritime security role and have now left UK waters."
The French Navy issued a statement denying that the Russian warships were holding any kind of drills at all.
"They are not holding exercises. They're just waiting in a zone where they are allowed to be several times a year," a French Navy spokesperson said.
NATO also put on a show of indifference regarding the Russian warship moves.
"It's not as if they are doing some war-fighting maneuvers in the English Channel or something that could be considered hostile." said NATO spokesperson Col. Jay Janzen, who called the Russian warships passing in the storied Channel between England and France as "routine."
After conducting their initial drills, the Russian warships moved to the Bay of Seine, of the French coastline in international waters where they anchored to, the Russians said, wait out a spell of unfavorable weather conditions.
The Russian warships conducting drills through the English Channel came on the same day that a Russian submarine fired an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile in the Baltic Sea, in the second successful test firing in a month. When fully armed, the next-generation "Bulava" missile could deliver a payload of 10 nuclear warheads at a distance of 5,000 miles.