The Frigate Yaroslav Mudry was transiting from a deployment in the Eastern Mediterranean to return its home fleet in the Baltic when it sailed through one of the worlds busiest sea-ways yesterday, escorted by its opposite number from the Royal Navy.
Although the sailing took place against a backdrop of growing tension between Russia and Western governments over the unrest in the Ukraine, which both sides blame on each other, the transit was completed without incident and in accordance with international maritime law. While the appearance of a Russian frigate in the English Channel has been viewed by some through the prism of the Ukraine conflict, it properly has more to do with increasing Russian interest in the Eastern Mediterranean, where it has been increasing its presence over the past couple of years.
Although the Russian Navy almost completely withdrew from the Region after the end of the Cold War, a war in Syria and a resurgent interest in Greece and Cyprus led to a fleet being re-established there for the first time in twenty years in 2013. The deployment is made up of ships lent from the Baltic and Black sea fleets, which includes Frigate Yaroslav Mudry, which used the shortest route home with its attendant fleet tanker.
Due to a quirk of history, the home port of the Baltic Fleet, is actually in Northern Poland, in the Kaliningrad Oblast: a small slice of Northern Europe and former East Prussia kept by Russia after the end of the Cold War. Although the enclave has no land connection to the rest of Russia, its location in Europe and favourable tax arrangements mean it is one of the richest part of the country, with a thriving industrial base.
Commander Paul Hammond RN, Commanding Officer of HMS Argyll, the British escorting frigate which is of comparable age and capability to the Russian Yaroslav Mudry, said: “We are one of the Royal Navy’s high readiness ships and we knew we could be called upon to respond a range of duties, such as monitoring a Russian warship, at short notice.
“The vast majority of the ship’s company, myself included, returned from a highly successful Atlantic Patrol Task (North) deployment just before Christmas.
“To be ready to undertake this duty after a short period of leave and maintenance is a testimony to their hard work and the capability of this ship.”