A Hampshire-based warship is escorting a Russian aircraft carrier and support ships as they pass through the English Channel.

The Portsmouth-based Type 23 frigate HMS St Albans is keeping watch on the Admiral Kuznetsov carrier, which is being accompanied by the Petr Velikiy battlecruiser and a salvage tug as it passes close to UK territorial waters on its way home from operations in war-worn Syria.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said: ''We will keep a close eye on the Admiral Kuznetsov as it skulks back to Russia; a ship of shame whose mission has only extended the suffering of the Syrian people.

''We are man-marking these vessels every step of the way around the UK as part of our steadfast commitment to keep Britain safe.''

HMS St Albans, equipped with a Merlin helicopter and state-of-the-art radar, is working alongside RAF Typhoon aircraft to monitor the ship in order to ''provide reassurance to the nations which border the North Sea and English Channel'', according to a Navy spokesman.

He added: ''Remaining at a respectful distance, but keeping the Russian warships clearly visible, Royal Navy sailors keep watch on every movement through their binoculars and use state-of-the-art radars to track the course and speed of the ships as they pass close to the UK.''

Commander Chris Ansell, the commanding officer of HMS St Albans, said: ''This tasking demonstrates the Royal Navy's commitment to protecting our home waters and readiness to undertake short notice operations.

''The movements of the Russian ships are being continually monitored in a co-ordinated response between the Royal Navy, RAF and our Nato partners.

''As an island nation, the security of the seas around our coastline is vital and this sort of task is routine business for HMS St Albans and the Royal Navy, which stands ready at all times to protect UK territorial waters.

''My ship's company of 190 sailors take great pride in the role they play as one of the UK's on-call warships to deal with this type of situation.''

The Kuznetsov carrier group previously passed through the Channel last autumn on its way to the Mediterranean and was escorted by Type 45 destroyer HMS Duncan and Type 23 frigate HMS Richmond.