In a proactive move, a group of Russian Navy ships are currently entering the Irish Sea. There are clear indications that they will sail up and around the United Kingdom. Among other things, this will take them close to major submarine base of Faslane.
The group is led by the SLAVA class cruiser Marshal Ustinov. The UDALOY class destroyer Vice-Admiral Kulakov and a tanker, Vyazma, are with her (him).
The exact positions of the cruiser and destroyer are not currently visible by open sources. But the tanker is broadcasting its position on AIS (automated identification system).
It has passed the entrance of the English Channel and is sailing into the Irish Sea. A Royal Navy warship, indicated to be HMS Lancaster, is shadowing them.
Ustinov left the Mediterranean on August 24 and has slowly approached the UK. The Russian warships are understood to be returning home after over 6 months deployed to the Mediterranean to support Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
When the warship was deploying there in January it planned live firing exercises in Irish EEZ (exclusive Economic Zone), at the time a controversial move. These had to be relocated after Irish fishermen complained.
The cruiser is the sister ship (brother ship in Russian convention?) of the ill fated Moskva. The latter was sunk By Ukrainian forces in the Black Sea on April 13-14. Ustinov is however a more updated ship. Part of the Russian Navy’s northern fleet, she relieved upgraded systems and weapons.
Even on their homeward voyage the route that they take appears provocative, sending a message to NATO members.
It is also a reminder to Ireland, which is not a NATO member, of its strategic position from a Russian perspective. In many respects Ireland is a weak point on Europe’s western edge.
Right now, the vessels appear to have done a U-turn and are currently sailing southwest. This is a fluid situation however, we will have to see how it plays out.
Russia has limited facilities in the Mediterranean and cannot maintain individual vessels there indefinitely. One by one they will have to return home, weakening the Russian position there.