UK says deploys a destroyer to track Russian aircraft carrier

LONDON Thu May 8, 2014 8:21am EDT

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LONDON (Reuters) - Britain said on Thursday it had deployed a destroyer to track a Russian aircraft carrier sailing close to its coastal waters, the latest in a series of such incidents and a reminder of underlying tensions between London and Moscow.

A spokesman from Britain's Ministry of Defense said HMS Dragon had been "activated" on Wednesday in response to the approach of a Russian task force including the Admiral Kuznetsov, Russia's only aircraft carrier.

"It was activated yesterday to meet the Admiral Kuznetsov task force," the spokesman told Reuters.

The Admiral Kuznetsov is capable of carrying up to 26 fixed-wing fighters and 24 helicopters. A Russian naval spokesman said last month the vessel had completed a deployment as part of Moscow's naval force in the Mediterranean and was on its way back to its base of Severomorsk in north-west Russia.

HMS Dragon, a modern air-Defense destroyer, was deployed in similar circumstances just last month to shadow another Russian warship, the Vice-Admiral Kulakov, as it sailed past Britain.

Britain last month also scrambled Typhoon fighter jets to see off Russian military planes flying close to its airspace off the coast of Scotland.

Defense Secretary Philip Hammond has said that recent events in Ukraine have increased awareness of Russian military activity, but that Britain's military has long routinely intercepted, identified and escorted Russian planes and warships travelling through "areas of interest".

(Reporting by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Guy Faulconbridge)

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