MOSCOW (AP) — Russian warships have entered the English Channel to wait out a storm following a week of maneuvers in the North Sea, the latest in a string of Russian military exercises this year.
The Russian defense ministry said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies that a naval destroyer, a landing craft, a rescue tugboat and a tank ship had to anchor in the international waters of the Bay of the Seine, off France, on Friday. The ministry said the ships have been conducting naval exercises in the North Sea since Nov. 20.
Russia has conducted a variety of exercises following the Kremlin's annexation of Crimea and its involvement in eastern Ukraine. A recent think tank report recorded a sharp rise in Russian-NATO military encounters since the annexation, including violations of national airspace and close encounters at sea.
The British defense ministry said all the ships had the right to pass through the Dover Strait under international law and added that they were escorted by a Royal Navy warship.
German Defense Ministry spokesman Lt. Col. Uwe Roth said the Russian movement does not seem to be dramatic and "does not constitute a special situation."
But the spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed concern about a recent wave of Russian military exercises.
"Even if it is taking place in international waters," Christian Wirtz said, the maneuver "isn't necessarily a way of emphasizing de-escalation and the readiness for de-escalation" in eastern Ukraine.
Frank Jordans in Berlin and Jill Lawless in London contributed to this report.