Irish Defence Forces "monitoring" Russian ships off Kerry coast
Two Russian ships have been flagged off the southwest coast of Ireland.
Irish Defence Forces have stated that they are aware of and "monitoring" two Russian vessels that have ventured into Irish territorial waters.
The ships, named the Umka and the Bakhtemir, are operated by the the Russian Marine Rescue Services, the same state entity that was reprimanded by the US government for its' role in the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
Initially appearing to depart for Africa, Irish defence officials became wary of the vessels late last week following the undertaking of unusual manoeuvres off the Galway coast.
Having deviated from their course to the Port of Malabo in Equatorial Guinea, Defence officials analysed these movements, determining it most likely that both the Umka and the Bakhtemir were merely trying to avoid bad weather over the Atlantic.
This assertion was cast into fresh doubt though on Thursday night, as after correcting course, the pair of ships once again veered off their pre-planned route, back-tracking up the West coast of Ireland.
With the Russian vessels intentions still unknown, the Irish Air Corps and Naval Service are maintaining surveillance, with marine tracking software placing their latest location approximately 100km off the coast of the Dingle Peninsula.
Efforts to determine the vessels intentions were however hampered by the fact that as of Friday afternoon the Naval Service had no ships at sea due to a lack of personnel.
It was also reported that the two ships have the capability to interfere with sub-sea cables, a concern to the Defence Forces as they are currently operating in the vicinity of a newly opened sub-sea communications cable off the Irish coast.
Responding to the incident, an Irish Defence Forces statement said that "Both the Air Corps and the Naval Service continue to monitor activity in Irish waters and to undertake Maritime Defence and Security Operations throughout Ireland's maritime domain".
Russian Ambassador to Ireland, Yuri Filatov, also spoke to the presence of Russian ships in Irish territorial waters, stating that;
"The purpose of this story seems to be to once again create an impression of ‘suspicious’ Russian maritime activity, allegedly aimed at sabotaging sub-sea communication cables".
This incident is not the first of its kind involving Russian interference off the West coast of Ireland, when in January of last year, a group of Kerry fishermen halted Russia's plans to engage in military exercises off the Irish coast.
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