Ben Wallace pushed for reply to Russian ‘spy ship’ in UK waters

Concerns raised about Russian vessel 'snooping around the oil stations in the North Sea and the oil pipelines'

British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace. AFP
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Ministers have called on Defence Secretary Ben Wallace to reveal how he is responding to a Russian “spy ship” that has patrolled in UK waters.

Concerns were raised by Liberal Democrat MP Jamie Stone about sightings of the Admiral Vladimirsky, a Russian ship seen off the coast of his Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross constituency in northern Scotland.

Although the ship is officially classified as an ocean research vessel, a joint investigation by European broadcasters says it is part of a fleet that is examining key energy sites for possible sabotage.

A Danish news crew recently published a video of a close encounter with the vessel in November last year, which showed a man, wearing a balaclava and military gear, and carrying an assault rifle, appearing on the deck of the ship.

The ship is thought to have entered the Moray Firth on November 10 last year, as part of a month-long journey across the Baltic and North seas.

Mr Stone called for Mr Wallace to come to the Commons and reveal how the government was responding to the incursions.

“It is not a trawler, it is not a pleasure boat, it is a spy ship complete with armed guards," he said.

“It has been snooping around the Beatrice oilfield and examining the interconnector to my constituency.

“It has been snooping around the oil stations in the North Sea and the oil pipelines.”

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Mr Stone also referred to last year’s unexplained Nord Stream gas pipeline explosion, which is still subject to investigation but is believed to have been intentional.

“We all know what happened in recent times in the Baltic with the gas pipeline," he said.

“I do not take kindly to this happening and I regard this as a very important security issue.

“It affects the United Kingdom and our security in terms of energy.

“What advice can you give me, Madam Deputy Speaker, in getting the Secretary of State for Defence to come to this place and make a statement in view of this urgent situation?”

Deputy Speaker Dame Rosie Winterton replied: “I am sure he knows that there are routes where he can request a statement to be made, but I have to tell him that at this point we have had no notice of a statement.

“Again his comments will have been heard and I am sure that they will be fed back to the Secretary of State.”

A government representative said: “Our priority will always be maintaining our national security.

“That is why we increased Royal Navy presence patrols after the Nord Stream incident and have invested £65 million [$80.9 million] in the first of our two Multi-Role Ocean Surveillance ships.”

Updated: April 26, 2023, 8:58 PM