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And Iain Ballantyne pointed to the presence of ‘s deputy defence minister Aleksey Krivoruchko at the launch of a newly commissioned battleship in St Petersburg as evidence the country was refusing to make any concessions to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Mr Ballantyne, Editor of WARSHIPS International Fleet Review, told Express.co.uk the recent incident in which a convoy of were shadowed through the English Channel by a sizeable, Royal Navy-led force, was just one example of both Russia’s belligerence and the West’s determination not to be cowed.

He said: “Meanwhile, in the Arctic, away from the gaze of the world, other nations were, for at least part of the pandemic, engaged in showing their determination to operate against Russia in the most demanding of environments.

“Two US Navy nuclear-powered attack submarines – USS Connecticut and USS Toledo – punched their way up through the roof of the world during Ice Exercise 2020 (ICEX 2020), which, along with those from the USA, also involved naval personnel and scientists from the UK, Canada, Japan and Norway.

“In addition to surfacing through the ice, the submarines are likely to have carried out various exercise to ensure they can operate under the ice where Russian nuclear-powered (and armed) submarines lurk, not least in how to fire torpedoes at a slippery, stealthy foe.”

Vladimir Putin Russia

Vladimir Putin is testing NATO’s defences, said Mr Ballantyne (Image: PA)

HMS Tyne shadows a Russian vessel

HMS Tyne shadows a Russian vessel (Image: Royal Navy)

Some of these vessels are even more capable than the ones deployed in the recent surge through the Channel and which staged the firepower show in the eastern Mediterranean

Iain Ballantyne

Mr Ballantyne said in order to gain an edge, Russia was committed not only to building nuclear submarines, but also investment in more surface warships.

He added: “Some of these vessels are even more capable than the ones deployed in the recent surge through the Channel and which staged the firepower show in the eastern Mediterranean.

“As the coronavirus pandemic took hold, Deputy Defence Minister Aleksey Krivoruchko presided over the launch of the Steregushchiy Class corvette Retivy.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: WHO keeps facemask guidelines despite new research

Commodore Yngve Skoglund, of the Royal Norwegian Navy

Commodore Yngve Skoglund, of the Royal Norwegian Navy (Image: Allied Maritime Command)

“He used the ceremony as a platform to reveal plans for constructing more Gorshkov Class frigates. The latter are the most powerful vessels of their kind in the Russian Navy.

“Krivoruchko promised the expanded construction programme would provide the Severnaya Shipyard in St Petersburg with enough work for a decade.”

Commenting on the situation in an interview carried on the website of NATO’s Allied Maritime Command, Commodore Yngve Skoglund, of the Royal Norwegian Navy, the current commander of Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 (SNMG1), which helped UK and French maritime forces monitor the Russians, said: “Being one of the busiest seaways in the world, with approximately 500 ships per day transiting, free access and entry to the Channel is crucial for NATO.

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Russia's Deputy Defence Minister Aleksey Krivoruchko

Russia’s Deputy Defence Minister Aleksey Krivoruchko (Image: GETTY)

Darren Caudle

Vice Admiral Daryl Caudle, Commander, US Navy Submarine Forces (Image: US Navy)

“There has been a substantial non-allied military activity in the area lately.

“Our job as a NATO force, together with our allies, is to deliver NATO’s ‘deter and defend’ message and provide maritime security.”

He added: “Our presence in the English Channel for the past few weeks is exactly what the standing maritime forces are made for.

Russian submarine Pskov (K-336)

Russian submarine Pskov (K-336) (Image: Daily Express)

“Every day we train and prepare to be ready for whatever task is given to us from NATO Maritime Command.

“It was a great pleasure for us to be able to support our British and French Allies in the Channel, and a great opportunity to test our forces’ ability to react swiftly to an upcoming task.

“We are here to sustain NATO’s essential work even when all nations are facing tough times.”

HMS Kent

HMS Kent was one of the ships in the Royal Navy’s force (Image: Royal Navy)

Meanwhile, speaking at the start of ICEX 2020, a three week biennial exercise offering the US Navy the chance to assess its operational readiness in the Arctic, Vice Admiral Daryl Caudle, Commander, US Navy Submarine Forces said: “The Arctic is a potential strategic corridor – between Indo-Pacific, Europe, and the US homeland – for expanded competition.

“The US Navy Submarine Force must maintain readiness by exercising in Arctic conditions to ensure it can protect national security interests and maintain favourable balances of power in the Indo-Pacific and Europe if called upon.”

Russia has so far recorded 3,548 coronavirus infections in 76 of its more than 80 regions, with 30 deaths – although there have been suggestions the figures underrepresent the actual totals.

The country’s Health Ministry yesterday said it was pleased with Russian regions’ readiness to tackle COVID-19 – but some health care workers say they are experiencing shortages of the most basic equipment.



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