An Iranian warship was spotted in the English Channel and escorted through Danish waters on its way to Russia, where Iran will take part in a military parade this weekend.
Marine trackers showed the intelligence-gathering vessel Makran, which belongs to the Iranian navy, sailing off Britain’s south coast.
In satellite photos obtained by the US Naval Institute, the Makran and the Iranian destroyer Sahand were seen heading towards the Channel from the Atlantic Ocean.
The Makran, an oil tanker converted for military use, was subsequently sighted in the Strait of Dover at England’s south-eastern tip.
After transiting the Channel, it entered Danish waters to enter the Baltic Sea on its way to St Petersburg. The Sahand’s position was unclear.
The Makran was escorted by two Danish warships as it passed under Denmark’s Great Belt Bridge on Thursday morning, according to the website Tanker Trackers.
Denmark’s Navy Command said it had been notified through diplomatic channels of the Iranian passage.
“I cannot remember seeing Iranian warships in Danish waters,” Navy Command spokesman Per Hansen told local media.
He said Denmark’s military routinely monitors ships from non-Nato countries that pass through its waters.
Sunday’s parade celebrating the 325th anniversary of the Russian fleet will involve 54 ships from countries including Iran, India and Pakistan.
An Iranian Navy commander, Rear Admiral Hossein Khandazi, is expected to lead Iran’s delegation in Russia.
Iranian state media suggested that only the Sahand would take part in the parade itself because the Makran was too large to enter a necessary canal.
The two warships left the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas in May and sailed to the Atlantic Ocean.
Iran said their deployment to the Atlantic was an effort to test their durability in tricky conditions.
It rejected suggestions that they were heading for Venezuela, an ally of Tehran which like Iran is under US sanctions.
The USNI raised concerns that the Makran could be used as a tanker to deliver fuel under cover of military operations.
Believed to have entered service in November, it can carry small boats on its deck and is equipped with a helipad.
Iran’s largest warship, Kharg, caught fire and sank in the Gulf of Oman last month.