A 350ft Russian vessel, believed to play in role in surveillance operations, is currently off the west coast of Ireland. The Defence Forces has said the Irish Naval Service is aware of the ship's presence.
The Yantar, which has been serving in the Russian Navy since 2015, is operated by Russia’s secretive Main Directorate of Underwater Research, which operates many of Russia’s special mission submarines.
The ship is officially an oceanographic research vessel, but carries extensive surveillance equipment. It is capable of attaching spy equipment to undersea cables that carry internet traffic across the world.
The Yantar carries a crew of 60 and was built in the Baltic port of Kaliningrad. It is the mothership for manned and unmanned deep-sea submersibles. It can deploy the three-man submersibles Rus and Konsul, which can dive to about 20,000ft.
Its missions are thought to include cable cutting, laying of taps on undersea cables, and intelligence missions.
Dozens of fibre-optic cables span the globe and Nato also has dedicated military cables on the ocean floor. On board the Yantar there are devices designed for deep-sea tracking, as well as equipment for connecting to top-secret communication cables.
In response to queries, the Defence Forces said it was aware of the presence of the vessel off the west coast of Ireland.
“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,” it said.
“This ship is transmitting on the automatic identification system and is outside Irish territorial waters.
“This activity is in line with the UN Convention on the Law Of the Sea (UNCLOS) rules for transit through international waters.
“Territorial waters are 12 nautical miles from the coast of Ireland and under UNCLOS, there is no restriction on ships operating on the high seas inside exclusive economic zones.”
The Yantar has also been deployed for search and rescue missions. It helped in the search for a missing Argentinean ARA San Juan submarine in 2017. The vessel disappeared with 44 crew on board.
It also located two Russian fighter jets that crashed into the Mediterranean in 2016, during the Syrian war.