French authorities and NATO confirmed that there were four Russian warships in the English Channel Friday. Russians claim it has nothing to do with military exercises. They said they were just seeking shelter from bad weather as they passed through the narrowest part of the channel between England and France at Pas-de-Calais.
The Royal Navy tailed them as they traveled through.
Weeks ago, a series of flights by large formations of Russian warplanes flew in European airspace and were intercepted by NATO.
NATO called Russia’s actions “increasingly provocative.”
“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,” said a spokesman for Britain’s Ministry of Defence.
The French navy dismissed it as nothing unusual.
NATO is also unconcerned.
Christiane Wirtz, a spokeswoman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, told journalists that the transit of the Russian ships “even in international waters, is not really a sign of de-escalation.”
It said the Russian detachment would begin a series of planned maneuvers shortly.
The quoted statement said a storm had forced the detachment to take temporary shelter at the Bay of the River Seine off the northwestern coast of France.
“During its stay, the ships’ crew will perform a series of maneuvers aimed at combating underwater vessels and technology,” the news agency quoted the Russian statement as saying.
While officials attempt to assuage peoples’ concerns, Russia is conducting maneuvers they don’t call maneuvers.