Russian warships in the eastern Mediterranean Sea have driven away a Dutch submarine shadowing the squadron, the Russian military said.
Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said two Russian navy destroyers spotted the Walrus-class submarine on Wednesday while it was 11 nautical miles away from the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier and its escorting ships.
The destroyers had tracked the submarine for more than an hour, using anti-submarine helicopters, before forcing it to leave the area, he said.
The Rusian spokesman said such “clumsy” attempts to manoeuvre close to the Russian squadron could have resulted in an accident.
Major General Konashenkov said the Russian squadron had previously spotted several Nato submarines, including a US Virginia-class nuclear submarine, while en route to eastern Mediterranean waters.
The Dutch submarine was not named but the Royal Netherlands Navy’s Walrus-class HNLMS Bruinvis called in Gibraltar last September on its way into the Mediterranean.
A Nato official said the alliance’s navies have been monitoring the Russian fleet in recent weeks in a “measured and responsible way, as is customary”. He refused to elaborate on how Nato was doing that.
The Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier, which sailed through the Strait of Gibraltar late last month, is being accompanied by the nuclear-powered Peter the Great missile cruiser and several other ships on a mission to Syria’s shores, the Russian navy’s largest deployment since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.
Nato has expressed concern, saying the move could presage an increase in the number of Russian air raids in Syria, particularly around the besieged city of Aleppo.