The Royal Navy has been “monitoring every movement” of Russian warships, it has emerged. The decision to dial-up security comes after the vessels displayed unusually high levels of activity in the English Channel and the North Sea. Former NATO Commander Rear Admiral Dr Chris Parry spoke to talkRADIO’s Ian Collins about why Russian leader Vladimir Putin would be making such a move during the worldwide coronavirus crisis.

Dr Parry told listeners: “It’s Putin trying to get in our faces while we’re obviously distracted by the coronavirus issue.

“But, of course, what he hasn’t taken us for is complete fools, I’m glad to say.

“The Navy’s out there doing its job every day, regardless of coronavirus.

“It’s contributing a hospital ship and a lot of other assets and personnel to deal with the primary crisis here in our homeland.”

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He continued: “I know it’s out there 24 hours a day, seven days a week, doing what it does best and that’s seeing off the Queen’s enemies.

“This particular Russian deployment, I think, has two functions.

“One is to, as I said, get in our face, to show the Russians aren’t being as affected as badly as we are by coronavirus.

“Secondly, I think it’s a normal, training cruise by frigates and two amphibious ships.”

Dr Parry also said: “I think they’ve got a big training mission to get some of their ships back into the frontline.

“The ships that are here are two fairly old amphibious ships, some support ships and five fairly sporty corvettes and frigates actually.”

Lieutenant Nick Ward, HMS Tyne’s executive officer, said of the Russian move: “As the armed forces are helping the NHS save lives in the UK, it’s essential the navy continues to deliver the tasks we have always performed to help keep Britain safe.

“This is very much part of routine business for HMS Tyne and represents one of the many roles our patrol vessels perform in support of the Royal Navy’s commitments.

“This is our core business and represents an enduring commitment to uphold the security of the UK.”

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