Russian sailors stand on the bridge of the Russian Navy’s Kilo-class submarine Rostov-na-Donu B-237 as it transits the Bosphorus Strait en route to the Black Sea on Feb. 13, 2022, in Istanbul, Turkey.

Russian sailors stand on the bridge of the Russian Navy’s Kilo-class submarine Rostov-na-Donu B-237 as it transits the Bosphorus Strait en route to the Black Sea on Feb. 13, 2022, in Istanbul, Turkey. (Burak Kara, Getty Images/TNS)

(Tribune News Service) — Russian attack submarines have conducted missions around the Irish Sea twice since the 2022 invasion of Ukraine, three people familiar with the matter said, an unprecedented move by the Kremlin that forced the U.K. military to take steps to protect British and Irish waters.

The first deployment of a Russian Kilo-class submarine close to the Irish Sea, which separates the island of Ireland from Great Britain, happened around 18 months ago, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private assessments. The second occurrence took place more recently. The extent of the submarine movements went beyond what U.K. officials had previously seen, they said.

Two of the people said U.S. officials were aware of the sub movements. The U.K.’s Ministry of Defence said it doesn’t “comment on operations.” The U.S. monitors Russian naval activity, a senior Biden administration official said. White House spokespeople declined to comment on the latest report, and Russia’s Defense Ministry didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Kilo-class submarine is a diesel-electric attack submarine capable of firing Russia’s Kalibr cruise missiles, as well as torpedoes and naval mines. Last month, Russian state media reported that Russian naval vessels, including the Yasen-class Kazan submarine, conducted simulated drills on the Atlantic Ocean ahead of a visit to Cuba.

The deployment of Russian submarines in waters surrounding Britain and western Ireland during the Ukraine war was already known, though it has not previously been reported that they traveled toward the Irish Sea. In 2023, Irish media reported that a British helicopter and warship “chased off” a Russian submarine outside Cork Harbour, in the south-west of Ireland, acting because the Irish military didn’t have the capabilities to counter underwater threats.

And last month, the BBC reported that a Russian submarine had been spotted off the coast of Scotland. It then traveled to Cuba.

A spokesperson for Ireland’s Department of Defence said the agency doesn’t comment on the operations of other countries’ armed forces. Without linking it to the reports about the Russian submarines, the spokesperson said air and naval assets are conducting “enhanced maritime patrolling” near offshore energy infrastructure in the Irish Sea.

Cork is also the landing point for an undersea cable, the EXA Atlantic, that also connects to Canada and the U.K. The defense spokesperson said government agencies are also engaging with each other on the protection of the country’s data cables.

Russia deployment of submarines around the U.K. and Ireland could be an attempt to identify potential weaknesses in British and Irish Sea defenses, or to try to intimidate the U.K. in response to its support for Ukraine, the people said.

It would be challenging for a Russian submarine to successfully navigate the Irish Sea in full without breaching international law, due to the complexity of claims to territorial waters, one of the people said. Submarines legally have to transit on the surface of territorial waters. The varying depths of the Irish Sea would make it difficult for a Russian vessel to travel in the waters submerged, the person said.

The U.S. Naval Institute describes the Kilo program as “one of the most successful naval programs in modern history.” More than 60 Kilo-class submarines remain in service, according to the institute. They have been used in the Black Sea to attack targets in Ukraine.

Kilo-class submarines have a top speed of 17 knots surfaced, or 20 knots submerged, according to a fact-sheet on the U.S. Naval Institute website.

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.


Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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