Russian ships leave zone off Ireland’s west coast – The Irish Times

Russian ships sighted off the west coast earlier this week have now left Ireland’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), the Defense Forces said on Sunday.

The two ships, the Umka and the Bakhtemir, sparked alarm among defense officials earlier this month when they were spotted performing unusual maneuvers off the coast of Co Galway near a new underwater communications cable.

It is believed that the ships were equipped with technology capable of jamming underwater cables.

The Defense Forces used ships and planes to keep tabs on the ships, which later turned south and appeared to continue their originally planned voyage to the port of Malabo in Equatorial Guinea on the west coast of Africa.

Former Foreign Secretary Charlie Flanagan TD called on Tánaiste and Defense Secretary Micheál Martin to summon the Russian ambassador to explain “the suspicious activities of Russian ships” off the Irish coast.

After analysis, Defense Forces officials determined that the ships were probably trying to avoid bad weather by turning back.

However, on Thursday evening, just before they left Ireland’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), the ships turned around again and began sailing up the west coast, causing further confusion about their intentions.

In a statement this afternoon, the Defense Forces said they had been monitoring Russian merchant vessels both inside and outside the Irish EEZ.

“As part of its Maritime, Defense and Security Operations (MDSO), the Irish Air Corps Maritime Patrol Aircraft observed Russian merchant ships in international waters off the island of Ireland,” it said.

“These ships have now left Ireland’s EEZ. The Irish Air Corps and Irish Naval Service continue to monitor activities in Irish waters and conduct Maritime Defense and Security Operations (MDSO) throughout Ireland’s maritime sphere.”

EU countries, including Ireland, have stepped up surveillance of vital underwater infrastructure since the blasts that crippled the Nord Stream pipelines last year. The culprits have not been identified, although the US, Russia and Ukraine have all been accused of being behind the attack. Russian ships leave zone off Ireland’s west coast – The Irish Times

Dais Johnston

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