Russia has a programme to sabotage wind farms and communication cables in the North Sea, according to new allegations.

The details come from a joint investigation by public broadcasters in Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland which will be aired tonight.

It says Russia has a fleet of vessels disguised as fishing trawlers and research vessels operating in the North Sea, including in waters around Aberdeen and the Moray Firth.

They carry underwater surveillance equipment and are mapping key sites for possible sabotage, according to the BBC, which says that UK officials are aware of Russian vessels moving around UK waters as part of the programme.

Underwater mapping

The first of a series of reports is due to be broadcast on Wednesday by DR in Denmark, NRK in Norway, SVT in Sweden and Yle in Finland.

The report focuses on a Russian vessel called the Admiral Vladimirsky. Officially, this is an Expeditionary Oceanographic Ship, or underwater research vessel. But the report alleges that it is in fact a Russian spy ship.

The documentary uses an anonymous former UK Royal Navy expert to track the movements of the vessel in the vicinity of seven wind farms off the coast of the UK and the Netherlands on one mission.

It says the vessel slows down when it approaches areas where there are wind farms and loiters in the area. It says it sailed for a month with its transmitter turned off.

When a reporter approached the ship on a small boat, he was confronted by a masked individual carrying what appeared to be a military assault rifle.

North-east activity

The same ship was reportedly sighted off the Scottish coast last year. It was spotted entering the Moray Firth, near the Beatrice Windfarm, on 10 November and seen about 30 nautical miles east of Lossiemouth, home to the RAF's Maritime Patrol Aircraft fleet before heading slowly west.

It is also known to have travelled around the North-east coast, where there are a number of operational offshore wind developments. On November 15th it was spotted near the Seagreen windfarm off the Angus coast.

UK Government warning

Meanwhile, Russian cyber-mercenaries are increasingly targeting Britain in an attempt to “disrupt or destroy” critical infrastructure, the government will warn today.

Oliver Dowden, the Cabinet Office minister, will give a speech to a security conference in Belfast warning of a rise in recent months of “Russian-aligned” groups targeting Britain, likening them to the Wagner Group militia operating in Ukraine.

Dowden will say companies in key sectors such as energy, transport and telecommunications should be more alert to these threats.

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