Russian aircraft carrier 'fly-tipping' off Moray Firth

HMS York and Admiral Kuznetsov. Pic: Reuters/Royal Navy/MoD
Image caption,
Royal Navy destroyer HMS York shadows aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov

The crew of a Russian aircraft carrier has been accused of dumping waste off Scotland's north coast after seeking shelter from winter storms.

Elements of the Baltic Fleet started arriving 30 miles (48km) off the Moray Firth on Monday.

The SNP's defence spokesman Angus Robertson said there had been reports of crew throwing waste overboard.

Portsmouth-based Royal Navy destroyer HMS York has been shadowing the vessels.

The warships, including aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, were still off the firth earlier, but moving slowly.

It was understood the Royal Navy informed the National Maritime Information Centre about rubbish being dumped from the carrier.

A Ministry of Defence (MoD) source said it was almost certainly food waste that was dumped.

Under environmental rules, food can be disposed off at sea provided this is done more than 12 miles (19km) from land. Plastics can never be dumped.

Mr Robertson accused the Admiral Kuznetsov's crew of "marine fly-tipping" and "bad manners".

He said: "Given the bad weather conditions the Russian vessels are very welcome to shelter off the Scottish coast, but it is more than bad manners to dispose of waste by simply throwing it overboard.

"This is in contravention of agreements and normal practice and I think we need answers from the Russian and UK governments.

"Have the appropriate authorities been informed? What was disposed of?"

Following Mr Robertson's comments, the MoD said: "There are strict regulations, which are internationally recognised and which Russia is signed up to under the International Maritime Organisation which govern pollution and dumping of waste at sea.

"They are a responsible navy and will follow those international regulations."

The Scottish government said it was investigating the matter and was asking UK authorities for information.

A spokesperson said: "We would expect all mariners, especially naval, to show respect for our precious marine environment.

"Whilst Scotland welcomes all nations to its seas, it is important they observe international conventions."

The Admiral Kuznetsov was headed for Syria when it and other vessels sought shelter in "deteriorating weather", according Russian military news agency Interfax-AVN.

The Royal Navy and Ministry of Defence (MoD) have released images of HMS York close to the carrier.

In a statement, the MoD said: "The 65,000 ton carrier, with other warships and support vessels, is thought to be en route to the Mediterranean on exercise.

"The aircraft carrier anchored outside British territorial waters some 30 miles off the Moray Firth where she was thought to have taken advantage of the relative shelter to avoid the worst of current bad weather in the North Sea."

Other Russian ships that sought shelter in the Moray Firth included the anti-submarine warfare ship Admiral Chabanenko and escort ship Yaroslav Mudryy, according to Interfax-AVN.

Foreign planes

In May 2007, Tornado F3 jets from RAF Leuchars in Fife were sent to intercept two Russian aircraft spotted observing a Royal Navy exercise.

The jets were scrambled after the foreign planes were detected by radar in the skies over the Western Isles.

They were identified as Russian Bear Foxtrot planes, commonly seen by RAF pilots during the Cold War.

The Russian aircraft were escorted from the area by the RAF who said no radio contact took place between the pilots.

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