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Republican Congressman puts focus on Russians in Ceuta

Republican Congressman Joe Pitts has tabled a motion before the US Congress urging Spain to stop allowing Russian Navy warships to refuel in Ceuta.

The motion – known as a Sense of Congress resolution - has yet to be accepted for debate but should it be adopted then theUS would ‘make clear’ its disapproval of Spain’s actions in regularly hosting Russian vessels.

News of the motion coincided yesterday with the arrival of another Russian vessel, the frigate Ladny, stopped at the Spanish port to refuel and two days after two Royal Navy ships escorted another Russian frigate, the Admiral Grigorovich, through UK waters.

The resolution in the Congress, even at this early stage, will anger Spain.

When members of the House of Representatives, the Senate or entire US Congress want to send a stern message, state an opinion or just make a point, they try to pass a "sense of" resolution.

Through simple or concurrent resolutions, both houses of Congress may express formal opinions about subjects of national US interest.

The motion presented by Congressman Pitts states that Spain has allowed the Russian Navy regular use of the Spanish port in Ceuta in North Africa.

Spain has hosted at least 57 Russian naval vessels since 2011, including frigates, destroyers, amphibious assault ships, and an attack submarine.

The United States often relies upon the British military facilities at Gibraltar, where the United Kingdom has a Permanent Joint Operating Base. Most recently, Gibraltar hosted a United States nuclear submarine, the USS Florida.

“The presence of the Russian Navy close to British territorial waters in Gibraltar presents significant intelligence and security risks for the United States, the United Kingdom, and the NATO alliance,” the motion reads.

Earlier this week, the British Government made clear its concern at the presence of Russian vessels sailing through British waters from the North Sea into the English Channel.

The Russian ship has since left UK territorial waters, believed to be on passage to the Black Sea.  It is likely to sail through the Strait of Gibraltar in the coming days and could stop in Ceuta.

Commander Trish Kohn, Commanding Officer of HMS Sutherland, was quoted by the Telegraph: “The Admiral Grigorovich was continually monitored as she sailed south from the Baltic.

“The transit of Russian ships from their northern ports is not unusual, but we’re ready to protect UK territorial waters.”

Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, told the newspaper: “Our Armed Forces are working night and day to provide reassurance here at home and to our eastern NATO allies.”

“We have troops exercising and providing training, planes policing the skies and ships patrolling the Baltics.”