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Report: UK sends navy ship to North Sea to monitor Russian subs

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The Royal Navy’s HMS Westminster (front) escorts Russian Steregushchiy class ship Boiky (532) through the English Channel off Britain’s coast, January 8, 2018. (Photo by Reuters)

A British Royal Navy ship has reportedly been deployed in the North Sea to monitor Russian submarines and vessels in the area amid rising tensions between the West and Moscow over Ukraine.

The British daily broadsheet newspaper The Telegraph said in a report that the HMS Westminster frigate of the UK Royal Navy is currently in the North Sea and is being held at "very high readiness" in the Shetland Islands.

According to The Telegraph, the frigate, which was last upgraded in 2014 and is equipped with the Sea Ceptor surface-to-air missile system, is ready to track Russian ships and submarines allegedly returning home for Christmas on January 7.

The HMS Westminster’s main role over the holidays will be to use its array sonar to listen for Russian submarines in the area.

“The high north and Arctic region is vitally important to our security of the UK, as well as some of our closest allies in Scandinavia, the Baltic region and northern Europe,” UK Armed Forces minister James Heappey said in an interview with British media.

“Deployments such as this… demonstrate to our allies and adversaries alike that the UK will be forward-leaning in supporting the security and stability of the region.”

Meanwhile, the newspaper said a nuclear-armed UK Royal Navy submarine had been seen leaving its base in Scotland on December 23, adding, however, that the sub is only conducting training and is not yet on deployment.

The United States and the United Kingdom have previously threatened Russia with "massive consequences" if it launched military action in neighboring Ukraine.

Tensions have been mounting in eastern Ukraine since November, when several Western media outlets reported that Russia had been amassing troops near the border with the objective of a large-scale military invasion of the country.

Russia denies the allegations, saying it is free to move its troops around within its own borders and that its military buildup is in response to increased NATO activity near its borders.

Russia says Moscow does not seek an armed conflict with Ukraine but "has all the capabilities in place to ensure a full military and technical response to any kind of provocations that might unfold around us."

Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly warned the West against crossing the Kremlin's red lines by staging military exercises in and sending lethal weaponry to Ukraine.

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