Defence Forces monitoring Russian spy ship spotted off Donegal coast

The Yantar

The Russian spy ship 'The Yantar'

The Defence Forces have confirmed they are monitoring a Russian vessel with spy capabilities that has been spotted off the Donegal coast.

The Irish Naval Service is currently monitoring the 350ft Russian spy ship that was spotted off the west coast of Ireland on Wednesday morning.

The Irish Defence Forces are aware of the presence of the Russian vessel, named The Yantar, off the west coast of Ireland.

The Yantar carries a crew of 60 and reportedly carries extensive surveillance equipment.

The vessel has been serving the Russian Navy since 2015 and is operated by Russia's Main Directorate of Underwater Research.

The ship is officially an oceanographic research vessel but is capable of attaching spy equipment to undersea internet cables, while the ship is also used for cable cutting and intelligence-gathering missions.

Constructed in the Baltic port of Kaliningrad, the Yantar is the mothership for manned and unmanned submersibles, including two three-man submersibles capable of diving up to 20,0000 ft.

The Yantar carries devices for deep sea tracking and additionally carries equipment used to connect to top-secret communications cables, such as military cables installed by NATO on the ocean floor.

A spokesperson for the Defence Forces said: “Óglaigh na hÉireann can confirm that the Irish Naval Service is aware of the Russian ship Yantar transiting in the Irish exclusive economic zone off the west of Ireland.

“This ship is transmitting on the automatic identification system and is outside Irish territorial waters.”

The spokesperson said that the ship's activity was in line with the UN Convention on the Law Of the Sea.

The ship reportedly traversed the seas between North Mayo and West Donegal in a zigzag fashion in the early hours of Wednesday morning, indicating that it was searching for something using sonar.

There is at least one undersea communications cable located in the area that the vessel was sighted, while the ship's behavior has been described as highly suspicious by military sources.

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