- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Britain’s Royal Navy closely monitored two Russian warships and their support vessels that passed through the English Channel overnight Tuesday, claiming the development “routine” despite tension between London and Moscow over a nerve attack on a former Russian spy in the United Kingdom earlier this year.

In a statement Wednesday, the Royal Navy said one its destroyers, the HMS Diamond, had “shadowed” the Russian warships as they moved through the channel. It was the second time this summer that Moscow has sent ships through the passage and the third time since January.

“This is routine business for the Royal Navy,” Commander Ben Keith of the HMS Diamond said in the statement, which identified the Russian warships as the destroyer Severomorsk and cruiser Marshal Ustinov.

Russia’s official Tass news agency reported Tuesday that the two vessels would be heading through the English Channel on a long-distance voyage to the Atlantic, describing the Ustinov as “missile-carrying,” and the Severomorsk as a “large anti-submarine warfare ship.”

The vessels are en-route on a long-voyage mission to the Atlantic Ocean, where they will “hold training and drills to practice ship damage control, assistance to seafarers in distress and the provision of all types of protection and defense,” the agency reported.

The British Royal Navy downplayed the passage through the English Channel in contrast to some British news reports, which hyped the situation as a major provocation by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Sun newspaper ran with the headline: “Sabre-rattling Vladimir Putin sends group of warships through the English Channel as Royal Navy scrambles to intercept.”

Tuesday’s development came roughly four months after relations between Moscow and London hit a low following the March nerve agent in the U.K. on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal.

Mr. Skripal is reported to have been a double agent who also worked with British intelligence. Authorities in the U.K. claim Russian agents carried out the attack on him. Moscow denies the accusation.

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