A Russian frigate sailed past the Belgian coast earlier this week, in international waters. Aboard the warship was a hypersonic cruise missile, Russia claims. According to the Belgian Navy, it happens more often that such a frigate passes with several ships.
The warship, an Admiral Gorshkov-class frigate, departed from Severomorsk (near Finland) on 4 January accompanied by the supply ship Kama. The two ships were accompanied by first the Norwegian and then the British navies.
On Wednesday, they passed through the Channel, in international waters. The Belgian navy shadowed the ships, a Belgian military source confirmed to VRT. The navy has a ship available 24 hours a day for this purpose. The Russian ships sailed 50 to 60 kilometres from the coast.
"That happens more often," said director of the Belgian Navy's Maritime Operations Centre, Kurt De Winter, who added that it is not unusual. "It is normal procedure to pass with several ships. They are allowed to do that in international waters without any problems. Last year about 100 Russian ships – from frigates and tankers to tugs and landing craft – did this."
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However, it is thought to be the first time a ship passes with that rocket, the Zirkon, on board. "That one reaches the speed of sound several times. It is unclear whether it was really on board. Something like that does not just get launched."
"The purpose is hard to estimate," said De Winter. "They deliberately get into the press, so it is likely supposed to be some kind of deterrence."