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British Royal Navy frigate in Tallinn on Baltic Sea JEF operation

The HMS Richmond's name plate.
The HMS Richmond's name plate. Source: ERR

A Type 23 frigate from the United Kingdom's Royal Navy visited Tallinn on Friday, offering ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) the chance to look around on board.

The vessel, the HMS Richmond, forms a part of the UK-led Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF), and will be active in Latvian, Swedish and Finnish waters, as well as off the coast of Estonia.

The JEF convened in the Baltic following a decision by the defense ministers of 10 member nations and in the aftermath of October's incidents which saw the Estonia-Finland Balticconnector gas pipeline ruptured, and damage to to undersea communications cables.

HMS Richmond's commanding officer, Lt Cdr Chris L'Amie, said: "We were working with the Latvian navy with one of their mine counter measures vessels, who were securing critical undersea infrastructure".

The Richmond had also encountered Russian surface vessel activity, L'Amie went on. "While we were operating in their vicinity a Russian surface action group proceeded down through the area; we sat between the Russians and the Latvian mine counter measures vessel, just to offer some protection and also to demonstrate this was part of the JEF."

British Ambassador Ross Allen told AK (in Estonian) that the Richmond: "Reached Tallinn the night before last, and they are departing tomorrow. They patrolled, before, and will be patrolling tomorrow (Saturday – ed.) and the day after, together with the Estonian Navy and the Finnish Navy."

The Richmond has shared with the Estonian Air Force (Õhuvägi) an aerial image created via its air surveillance radar while in Estonian waters, while the ENL Wambola similarly rehearsed creating a surface images and maneuvering in conjunction with the Royal Navy frigate.

Commander of the Estonian Navy (Merevägi) Cdre Jüri Saska told AK that these types of awareness creation exercises are conducted at all times, in cooperation with Finland also.

He said: "In terms of image creation, there is nothing special here in comparison with the prior incident that happened with the Balticconnector pipeline and the Elisa cable, and also with the Swedish cable."

"We could pretty quickly identifying who the potential suspects were. However, as we all know, investigative bodies investigate, and then those who investigate do the talking, not those who made the discoveries," the commander went on.

In addition to the rupture, detected in the small hours of Sunday, October 8, caused to the Balticconnector pipeline, which has put it out of action until spring, damage was also caused to a cable operated by Estonian telecoms firm Elisa.

A submarine telecoms cable operated by Swedish firm Arelion was subsequently found to have been damaged at a point to the West of the Estonian island of Hiiumaa.

The main publicized theory as to culpability revolves around a Chinese container ship, the Newnew Polar Bear, in the area at the time of the incidents.

This theory holds that the Newnew Polar Bear's dragging anchor caused the damage.

Launched in 1993, the HMS Richmond is one of the Royal Navy's Type 23 or Duke class of frigates: her armaments include a GWS 35 Vertical Launching System (VLS) for Sea Ceptor missiles, Harpoon launchers and anti-submarine Sting Ray torpedo tubes.

The JEF is a coalition of British, Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Finnish, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish and Netherlands forces formed in 201 which provides a high-readiness intervention capability involving over 10,000 personnel across a range of activities, from combat operations to humanitarian assistance and defense engagement.

ERR News is planning to publish a feature on the HMS Richmond in the coming days.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Barbara Oja

Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera,' reporter Vahur Lauri.

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