A new Russian research ship, believed to be used for espionage, sailed along the Dutch coast on Wednesday. Shortly after entering the North Sea, the Yevgeny Gorigledzhan switched off its AIS transmitter, causing the ship to disappear from radar.
The Yevgeny Gorigledzhan (also called Evgeniy Gorigledzhan) is an oceanographic vessel, formally designed for bottom surveys and underwater work. However, it is part of the Russian secret military program GUGI, which was set up during the Cold War to keep an eye on the enemy. Ships from the military program have previously been linked to espionage activities near undersea data cables.
The Yevgeny Gorigledzhan appeared last Saturday, October 14, in the Baltic Sea, near Germany, according to data from MarineTraffic. It probably departed shortly before from the port of Kaliningrad, where the vessel was built in the Yantar shipyard. Drawings and photos of the ship show that it is equipped with at least two mini-submarines and radar equipment. It also has the ability to deploy underwater drones.
The Yevgeny Gorigledzhan started a soil survey near Rostock, Germany , exactly at the location where a tunnel is being built between northern Germany and Denmark. The research vessel was closely followed by the German coast guard.
Two days later it headed for the North Sea, after which it switched off the AIS transmitter near Aalborg, Denmark. The last signal on Tuesday afternoon showed that the Yevgeny Gorigledzhan was turning towards the Netherlands.
AIS transmitters contribute to safety at sea by broadcasting the position and identity of a boat. When a vessel switches off its AIS transmitter without a legitimate reason, this often indicates that it does not want to be tracked because it is carrying out illegal activities. It is not mandatory for naval vessels to transmit an AIS signal.
It is not known whether the Dutch navy is following the Yevgeny Gorigledzhan. “We are keeping a close eye on this case. For operational reasons, we are currently not making any statements about how we do this,” a Navy spokesperson said. The Coast Guard has not been deployed, a spokesperson said. Flight data shows that a few hours after the Yevgeny Gorigledzhan set off its signals, a British Army Boeing P-8 patrol plane flew several times over the North Sea near North Holland on Wednesday afternoon. The Boeing P-8 was specifically built to detect ships and submarines. The Netherlands no longer has such patrol aircraft.
Since leaving the Baltic Sea, the Yevgeny Gorigledzhan has been sailing at the same pace as the oil tanker Primorsky Prospect deployed by Russia. A few hours after the Gorigledzhan disappeared from radar, the Primorsky Prospect also switched off its AIS transmitter. The Prospect eventually surfaced again on Thursday morning near The Hague. It is not clear why the two ships sailed together.
A spied spy vessel
It appears that the navy is following the Yevgeny Gorigledzhan with patrol ship HNMLS Holland near Zeeland. That would mean that the Russian spy ship is currently in the same location as the Admiral Vladimirsky in June and July of this year, right above several data cables and a major gas pipeline.
It is not the first time that a Russian spy ship has sailed along the Dutch coast. This summer, the Admiral Vladimirsky, a research ship from the Baltic fleet, was moored off Zeeland for ten days . The Vladimirsky was stationary at times over several data cables and an important gas pipeline at the end of June and the beginning of July. It is not known what it was doing there. The navy escorted the ship, but could not intervene. According to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, ships are allowed to sail freely through the Dutch Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
The Vladimirsky also plays an important role in the documentary Putin’s Shadow War , in which Scandinavian journalists demonstrate that Russia is systematically spying in the North Sea. The journalists follow the ship as it sails past wind farms off the Dutch and British coasts in November 2022 . The investigation also links Russian ships to the sabotage of the undersea Nord Stream gas pipeline.
In February this year, the military intelligence service MIVD warned that Russia wants to disrupt our energy supply and communications by sabotaging pipes and cables. A few months later, the navy was given the task of protecting infrastructure in the North Sea.
It is not clear whether Yevgeny Gorigledzhan aimed to sabotage or spy on the Dutch infrastructure. So far there is no trace of the ship. [Pointer]
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