• The Admiral Kuznetsov is approaching the Dover Strait on its way to start attacking jihadis in Syria 
  • Several support ships of the Russian fleet, including an ocean going tug have been seen in the channel 
  • The Royal Navy and Nato allies are keeping the Russian carrier fleet under close observation
  • Putin has recalled two corvettes from the Mediterranean to divide the Royal Navy's response to his fleet
  • Russians have mocked Royal Navy as 'weak' and claimed Britain 'overreacted' by deploying warships
After days of mocking the Royal Navy and their allies as ‘weak’, Vladimir’s Putin’s forces upped the ante by entering the 22-mile wide stretch of water separating the UK from mainland Europe.
Belching black smoke from its powerful diesel engines, the force’s carrier flagship the Admiral Kuznetzov passed Ramsgate at around 9am and was near Folkestone by 11.30pm.  
Russian warships sail down Dover Strait en route to Syria
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The Admiral Kuznetsov pumped out toxic black smoke from its diesel engines as it passed Dover this morning 
The Admiral Kuznetsov pumped out toxic black smoke from its diesel engines as it passed Dover this morning 
Smoke on the water:  Admiral Kutnesov, pictured here belching toxic fumes as it steamed through the English Channel today
Smoke on the water: Admiral Kutnesov, pictured here belching toxic fumes as it steamed through the English Channel today
Members of the ship's company were spotted on the flight deck as a ITN News helicopter flew off its beam 
Members of the ship's company were spotted on the flight deck as a ITN News helicopter flew off its beam 
The Russian fleet, including the guided missile battle cruiser Peter the Great, is passing Dover this morning, pictured having steamed through the night on their way to Syria 
The Russian fleet, including the guided missile battle cruiser Peter the Great, is passing Dover this morning, pictured having steamed through the night on their way to Syria 
People have been gathering around Dover since the early hours of the morning to catch a glimpse of the Russian fleet 
People have been gathering around Dover since the early hours of the morning to catch a glimpse of the Russian fleet 
The HMS Richmond has reported the Russian fleet is heading south towards the Dover strait while several NATO vessels are being deployed to keep the flotilla under surveillance. Meanwhile Vladimir Putin has recalled two corvettes from the Mediterranean to divide the Royal Navy's response to his aircraft carrier provocatively sailing down the British coastline 
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: 'They are all in one line now. They have to be to effectively go through the traffic separation scheme, and they are progressing as expected.
'They haven't slowed or sped up. When they are clear of the Dover traffic separation scheme, they will probably break back out in a formation scheme and be on their way.
'We still don't know where that is and how they are going to get there, but everything so far has been exactly how we would have expected.
Putin's flagship was accompanied by the nuclear-powered missile cruiser Peter the Great and six other surface vessels including the world's biggest ocean going tug, the Nicolay Chiker. 
The Kuznetsov never travels far from its home port in Severomorsk, outside Murmansk without the tug in case the vessel's unreliable diesel engines pack up.  
The fleet steamed overnight from near the Scottish coast, shadowed by the Royal Navy and several Nato allies, passing within a few miles of Dover on the 211th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar. 
Vladimir Putin has ordered the Kuznetsov, which is a relic of the Cold War, to deploy to the eastern Mediterranean to bomb opponents of his ally Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.  
Russian defence officials have sent the world's largest ocean going tug, the Nikolay Chiker, to sail with the fleet in case the diesel-powered aircraft carrier breaks down.  
HMS Duncan - the world's most advanced air-defence destroyer – joined the HMS Richmond yesterday to intercept the eight-strong Russian fleet. 
As well as the Royal Navy, the Royal Norwegian Navy, Finnish Navy and Royal Netherlands Navy have vessels involved in the operation. 
Russian warships sail down English Channel en route to Syria
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The Admiral Kuznetsov was almost lost in a haze of smoke and haze as it steamed through the English Channel 
The Admiral Kuznetsov was almost lost in a haze of smoke and haze as it steamed through the English Channel 
The Russian battle fleet has been tracked by the Royal Navy, RAF and Nato allies since it entered the North Sea yesterday 
The Russian battle fleet has been tracked by the Royal Navy, RAF and Nato allies since it entered the North Sea yesterday 
Royal Navy's HMS Duncan (centre) is seen here observing a Russian Kirov Class Battle cruiser (left) and Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov
Royal Navy's HMS Duncan (centre) is seen here observing a Russian Kirov Class Battle cruiser (left) and Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov
As well as the Royal Navy, the Royal Norwegian Navy, Finnish Navy and Royal Netherlands Navy have vessels in the area
As well as the Royal Navy, the Royal Norwegian Navy, Finnish Navy and Royal Netherlands Navy have vessels in the area
Despite this response, one Moscow defence expert claimed Vladimir Putin is ready to 'seize control' of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic as he boasted about Russia's sea power while branding the Royal Navy 'tiny'.  
Pyotr Klintsevich, first deputy of Russian senate's Defence and Security Committee, confirmed the eight-strong flotilla was armed and ready for combat.
'We understand that such ships are armed, and that they did not just go for a walk with a walking stick,' he said. 
'The fact that today the military ships, including a first-class vessel, go forward - it's part of combat training tasks.' 
He added: 'The Admiral Kuznetsov and Pyotr Velikiy are able to solve any task anywhere on the planet's waters.'  
Broadcasters have also brazenly claimed that the presence of the Russian fleet has 'scared' the Royal Navy.
A report on TV Zvezda, run by the Vladimir Putin's Defence Ministry, boasted: 'NATO got scared by Russian ships moving towards Syria.' 
Vladimir Mukhin, who writes for Nezavisimaya Gazeta, headlined his column: 'Admiral Kuznetsov scared the English'. 
Putin's admirals are keen to ramp up the pressure on Britain's warships by calling in extra assets from the Mediterranean in a mission dubbed 'Operation Sea Fist' by the Russian media.  
Belgian frigate Leopold I has just joined the tracking operation with the Admiral Kuznetsov belching smoke in the background
Belgian frigate Leopold I has just joined the tracking operation with the Admiral Kuznetsov belching smoke in the background
The Russian fleet needs to certify its pilots, pictured yesterday  flying a pair of SU-33 Flankers, for operating from  the Admiral Kuznetsov around the clock before the carrier can begin strike missions against Bashar al-Assad's opponents in Syria 
The Russian fleet needs to certify its pilots, pictured yesterday flying a pair of SU-33 Flankers, for operating from the Admiral Kuznetsov around the clock before the carrier can begin strike missions against Bashar al-Assad's opponents in Syria 
The Russians have be flying operations with their Kamov KA-27 helicopters which can be used in anti-submarine warfare 
The Russians have be flying operations with their Kamov KA-27 helicopters which can be used in anti-submarine warfare 
The Russians are trying to divide the Royal Navy's efforts to track their fleet by recalling two corvettes from the Mediterranean, forcing the HMS Dragon to head south from Portsmouth to intercept.
It is understood there is also a Dutch submarine operating south of the English Channel.
Prime Minister Theresa May condemned the Russian decision to deploy the aircraft carrier.
Speaking upon her arrival in Brussels at her first EU summit since becoming Prime Minister, she said: 'We must show that robust and united European stance in the face of Russian aggression.
'The UK has put Russian actions in Syria on the agenda for this summit - we must continue to work together and it's vital that we work together to continue to put pressure on Russia to stop its appalling atrocities, its sickening atrocities in Syria.'
Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance would monitor the eight-ship force in 'a responsible and measured' way as it headed to the Mediterranean, the latest cat-and-mouse encounter in two years of Cold-War style tensions.
'We are concerned Russia's carrier group will support military operations in Syria in ways which increase human and civilian suffering," Stoltenberg said at North Atlantic Treaty Organisation headquarters in Brussels.
'This group may be used to... increase attacks on Aleppo.'
 Russian media crowed abut the strength of their fleet. Military expert Alexander Khrolenko said: 'While the North Atlantic bloc is stalling in the sands of the Middle East, the Russian Navy seizes control over the Atlantic, not to mention the Mediterranean and Black Seas.' 
He added: 'They [NATO] have no equal in the Mediterranean.' 
Russian pilots  conducted flight operations from the deck of the Admiral Kuznetsov carrier, pictured belching smoke, with the nuclear-powered Peter the Great guided missile cruiser shadowing in the background on their way to Dover 
Russian pilots  conducted flight operations from the deck of the Admiral Kuznetsov carrier, pictured belching smoke, with the nuclear-powered Peter the Great guided missile cruiser shadowing in the background on their way to Dover 
The KNM Fritdjtof Nansen of the Norwegian navy is part of NATO's response to monitor the Russian fleet 
The KNM Fritdjtof Nansen of the Norwegian navy is part of NATO's response to monitor the Russian fleet 
The Norwegian Air Force shadowed the Admiral Kuznetsov heading south earlier this week on their way to Syria 
The Norwegian Air Force shadowed the Admiral Kuznetsov heading south earlier this week on their way to Syria 

IS THE FLAGSHIP OF PUTIN'S FLEET A FLOATING CROCK? AIRCRAFT CARRIER HEADING FOR DOVER NEED MAJOR REPAIRS AND CAN'T HIT TOP SPEED

Britain is on high alert as Russia's aircraft carrier the Admiral Kuznetsov passes Dover in a blatant show of strength by Valdimir Putin.
But back in Moscow, the vessel, launched 31 years ago in the Soviet era, is seen as 'the most problematic ship in the Navy'.
After this voyage it is set for major repairs because it cannot hit top speed - leading to serious limitation for the aircraft. 
A recent report on the state of the ship highlighted 'violations of discipline' among a crew that rarely go to sea, but emphasised: 'The main problem of the Kuznetsov remains in its power plant.
'It is kept running only with the help of 'cannibalism' - when the necessary parts are taken from 956 class ships which use similar equipment,' said the report on Lenta.ru. 
Far from being an icon of Putin's power, Russian observers see the ageing the vessel as a symbol of the lack of naval planning since the end of Soviet times. 
'Numerous repairs in 1994-95, 1996-98, 2001-04 and 2008 could not improve the situation, mainly due to lack of financial investment,' one report stated. 
The aircraft carriers chequered history is highlighted by the fact it has changed names four times. 
Admiral Kuznetsov, which is leading Russia's fleet, is in desperate need of repairs, pictured previously in the repair dock
Admiral Kuznetsov, which is leading Russia's fleet, is in desperate need of repairs, pictured previously in the repair dock
The vessel, launched 31 years ago in the Soviet era, is seen as 'the most problematic ship in the Navy'
The vessel, launched 31 years ago in the Soviet era, is seen as 'the most problematic ship in the Navy'
Peter Roberts, senior research fellow for sea power and maritime studies at the Royal United Services Institute said the Russians were planning to use international waters when passing the English Channel so cannot be challenged. 
He said: 'It's a clear and military signal that Russia is back on the international stage. They are off to conduct a mission. They are off to conduct it off Syria. They are very focused on their mission.'
There have been warnings issued to civilian aircrew, such as helicopter pilots supplying North Sea oil rigs of 'intense naval military flying' off Scotland's east coast.  
A Norwegian navy frigate has also been following the Russian flotilla, which is being kept under close watch by a P-3 Orion. 
Two further British warships are also currently steaming up the east coast to intercept the Russian fleet after the Kremlin boasted they are 'seizing control' of the Mediterranean. 
Type-45 destroyer HMS Duncan – the world's most advanced air-defence destroyer – sailed from Portsmouth last night to join frigate HMS Richmond, which has intercepted the Kuznetsov task group of eight ships. 
The HMS Richmond has taken up station a few hundreds yards from the task force. It will remain as an escort while the Russians remain in an area of UK national interest. 
It is understood that the Belgian naval frigate Leopold I has also started trailing the flotilla as part of Nato Maritime Group One. 
The Nato Maritime Group One has also been tasked with tracking the Russian fleet as it passes the English Channel
The Nato Maritime Group One has also been tasked with tracking the Russian fleet as it passes the English Channel
The Kamov KA-27 helicopters can be used for troop transport as well as anti-submarine warfare operations 
The Kamov KA-27 helicopters can be used for troop transport as well as anti-submarine warfare operations 
The KA-27s flew close to the NATO vessels monitoring the Russian fleet as it approached the Scottish coast 
The KA-27s flew close to the NATO vessels monitoring the Russian fleet as it approached the Scottish coast 
According to the Ministry of Defence: 'Shadowing ships is regular business for the UK Royal Navy, supported on this occasion by Royal Air Force surveillance aircraft. 
'They will continue to escort the Russian Task Group and provide a visible presence south through the North Sea and English Channel as the ships conduct their passage and carries out flying operations.' 
It marks a further breakdown of relations between the two countries after after Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson became embroiled in a row with the Russian embassy last week. 
According to a Nato spokesman the fleet's destination does not 'inspire confidence' that the nation is seeking a political solution to the Syrian conflict.
The official said: 'Russia has the right to operate in international waters. There are plans in place for Nato navies to monitor the Russian ships as they head for the Mediterranean.
'At the same time, the deployment of the carrier group to the eastern Mediterranean does not inspire confidence that Russia is working towards a political solution to the conflict in Syria.'
The Russian fleet is expected to refuel in the Moray Firth before continuing on to the eastern Mediterranean 
The Russian fleet is expected to refuel in the Moray Firth before continuing on to the eastern Mediterranean 
The Admiral Kuznetsov is part of a flotilla of eight surface ships which is also been tracked by Russian submarines 
The Admiral Kuznetsov is part of a flotilla of eight surface ships which is also been tracked by Russian submarines 
The Admiral Kuznetsov, pictured centre, is unusual for a modern warship for the trail of black smoke it leaves behind
The Admiral Kuznetsov, pictured centre, is unusual for a modern warship for the trail of black smoke it leaves behind
Mr Johnson called on people to demonstrate outside Russia's London embassy last week in protest against Russia's bombing campaign in the Syrian city of Aleppo. 
But Moscow responded by branding his call for protests 'shameful' and accused him of 'Russophobic hysteria'.   
Britain's mobilisation of the aircraft carrier fleet off the coast of Scotland is the latest in an increasing presence of international naval assets in the area. 
After completing training it is understood  the aircraft carrier fleet will head to an anchorage on the Moray Firth where it will be refuelled before continuing to the Mediterranean.
Type-45 destroyer HMS Duncan – the world's most advanced air-defence destroyer – sailed from Portsmouth last night to join frigate HMS Richmond, which has intercepted the Kuznetsov task group of eight ships 
A Royal Navy seaman onboard the HMS Richmond keeps watch on the  Russian carrier fleet as it conducts training flight operations off the coast of the Shetland Islands
A Royal Navy seaman onboard the HMS Richmond keeps watch on the Russian carrier fleet as it conducts training flight operations off the coast of the Shetland Islands
The Russians are being shadowed by the HMS Richmond, with the Admiral Kuznetsov, belching smoke, in the background
The Russians are being shadowed by the HMS Richmond, with the Admiral Kuznetsov, belching smoke, in the background
Naval assets from Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Netherlands are all believed to be on standby.
As well as the Royal Navy, the Royal Norwegian Navy, Finnish Navy and Royal Netherlands Navy have vessels surrounding the North Sea. 
Nato aircraft are also patrolling the area, with tanker aircraft on station ready to refuel any fighter jets tasked with observing the Russian fleet.
The United States has sent another of its Arleigh Burke class guided missile destroyers into the Mediterranean in advance of the Russian fleet's arrival.
The USS Carney was refueled in Spain according to the US Sixth Fleet and will join the Nato forces in the eastern Mediterranean. 
The USS Ross is already in the region providing support for the French aircraft carrier the Charles De Gaulle.  
The USS Carney, pictured, departed Naval station Rota in Spain this morning in advance of the arrival of the Russian fleet
The USS Carney, pictured, departed Naval station Rota in Spain this morning in advance of the arrival of the Russian fleet
In addition the RAF Quick Reaction Alert squadrons in RAF Lossiemouth in north east Scotland and RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire have been ordered to remain on standby in case they need to intercept any Russian jets straying into UK air space. 
The Admiral Kuznetsov is protected by a battle cruiser and a pair of large anti-submarine ships. 
It is also protected from below the surface by an attack submarine.
The aircraft carrier is supported by the nuclear-powered battleship Pyotr Velikiy, (Peter the Great) pictured on Monday passing the Norwegian coast by a Lockheed P3-Orion surveillance aircraft
The aircraft carrier is supported by the nuclear-powered battleship Pyotr Velikiy, (Peter the Great) pictured on Monday passing the Norwegian coast by a Lockheed P3-Orion surveillance aircraft
The Russians have also sent a submarine, pictured, to protect the aircraft carrier fleet
The Russians have also sent a submarine, pictured, to protect the aircraft carrier fleet
The Kuznetsov has undergone an extensive refit since its last deployment to the Mediterranean in 2014 when it had to be followed by several tugs in case its steam turbine engines packed up.  
Earlier this week the Norwegian navy followed the heavily-armed fleet as it sailed south from Severomorsk, near Murmansk in the Barents Sea. 
According to the Ministry of Defence, the Russian fleet is being kept under close observation by the Royal Navy and the RAF. 
A source told MailOnline: 'The Admiral Kuznetsov is currently conducting flight operations. The pilots need to be certified for carrier take-offs and landings at day and night before it takes up station in the Mediterranean.'
A Royal Navy spokesman said the size of the Russian naval force was 'unusual' but that the Russian ships were 'behaving very well', including booking areas for flying and calling up coastguard stations.
'The special part of this is definitely the aircraft carrier.
'If you just wanted to keep it safe, you put a destroyer and a frigate with it. If you wanted to show a bit of muscle, you do what they're doing now.' 
But he added: 'I wouldn't say this is the full might of their fleet'. 
The French Navy has the nuclear powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle in the Mediterranean already conducting combat operations against ISIS targets in Syria 
The Charles De Gaulle is been protected by the guided missile destroyer USS Ross, pictured here in the Combat Information Centre where its Tomahawk cruise missiles are controlled
The Charles De Gaulle is been protected by the guided missile destroyer USS Ross, pictured here in the Combat Information Centre where its Tomahawk cruise missiles are controlled
'They are free to do this in international waters, but once they are in the English Channel, the aircraft will be grounded.' 
The MOD confirmed the Royal Navy would shadow the carrier and its fleet while it remains in the UK's area of interest. 
Also, RAF Typhoons and Tornadoes are on red alert at airbases in Lossiemouth in North East Scotland and Coningsby in Lincolnshire in case any Russian jets stray into UK airspace 
The fleet could possibly route around Ireland's west coast to avoid the English Channel, although there is far greater shelter avoiding the Atlantic Ocean.
However, after going through the Bay of Biscay and down the Portuguese  coast, the fleet will pass through the nine mile wide Gibraltar straits before reaching its area of operation. 
It is understood the fleet will resupply before continuing to the Mediterranean. 
The Admiral Kuznetsov is the Russian flagship and the country's only aircraft carrier. 
The French already have the Charles De Gaulle operating in the eastern Mediterranean. 
Major Elisabeth Eikeland, spokeswoman for the Norwegian Army's National Joint Headquarters said: 'We have been informed that they are en route to the Mediterranean. It's not every day that so many ships sail together off Norway.' 
According to the Russian Ministry of Defence, the aircraft carrier taskforce departed on Saturday to the Mediterranean.  
A spokesman said: 'The group consists of the aircraft-carrying heavy cruiser Admiral Kuznetsov, the Pyotr Velikiy battlecruiser, large anti-submarine ships Severomorsk and Vice-Admiral Kulakov and support vessels.' 
The Russian MOD claimed: 'Special focus will be made on safeguarding security of maritime traffic and other types of maritime economic activity of Russia and also on responding to the new kinds of modern threats such as piracy and international terrorism.' 
 The Admiral Kuznetsov had previously operated in the Mediterranean early in 2014. 
The Kuznetsov is main attacking threat is the Sukhoi SU-33 Flanker D aircraft. The supersonic jets can carry up to 6.5 tonnes of bombs and missiles on 12 external hardpoints. 
However, the lack of a catapult system on the Kuznetsov means the aircraft cannot take off with a full weapons or fuel load and safely make it into the air. 
The SU-33 is a specially adapted version of the SU-27 - which is the Russian version of the F-15. 
It has been fitted with a specially adapted undercarriage, and aerodynamic package to help it cope with operating off of a flight deck. 
Also the aircraft's wings are able to fold, meaning they can store more jets on the aircraft carrier.  

PUTIN IS GETTING READY FOR WAR: EX-KGB SPY BELIEVES CONFLICT IS 'INEVITABLE'

Vladimir Putin is readying for war, warns one of his former Russian KGB comrades.
Former Soviet secret services boss Gennady Gudkov told MailOnline said: 'If anyone still does not understand which direction the situation in Russia is heading, I can tell you. The country is being prepared for a military conflict.'
Colonel Gudkov, 60, said: 'There are lots of signs of militarization in Russia.
'A bloated military and defence budget, quick rearmament of the army, almost monthly army exercises and tests of the newest samples of dreadful hardware.'
Ready for War? Former KGB chief Gennady Gudkov, 60, claims Vladimir Putin is preparing for conflict by bloating the military and defence budget
Ready for War? Former KGB chief Gennady Gudkov, 60, claims Vladimir Putin is preparing for conflict by bloating the military and defence budget
Gudkov said Putin is working behind the scenes in readiness for conflict, adding: 'There are active renovations in bomb proof shelters, purchase of gas masks and defence kits for civilians, along with a massive mobilisation in many places.
'Military (naval) activities in the Middle East, in the Black and Mediterranean seas, plans to resume and enhance military bases aboard.
'Growing military propaganda, spy madness and the search for internal enemies - all are typical of a pre-war situation.
'Laws have been adopted that allow the use of military force abroad, and hide information about losses.'
Comparing the mood to the Stalin era ahead of the Second World War which initially saw the USSR in a pact with Hitler before ensuring his eastern flank defeat, he warned: 'The country went through the same things in the 1930s.
'And the results are known, too.'
Putin, pictured with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, is working behind the scenes in preparation for war by renovating bomb proof shelters and purchasing gas masks and defence kits for civilians, added Gudkov
Putin, pictured with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, is working behind the scenes in preparation for war by renovating bomb proof shelters and purchasing gas masks and defence kits for civilians, added Gudkov
Gudkov, an MP until he was forced out by the Kremlin in 2012, claims that last month's parliamentary elections, comfortably won by former KGB spy Putin's allies against a weak and emasculated opposition, signalled a transition in Moscow.
'It is entirely clear that the country has switched from authoritarian to totalitarian,' he said.