THE mystery over severed undersea power cables off Shetland deepened tonight after it emerged a Russian ‘research ship’ was clocked in the area.
Engineers battled to restore internet and phone communications after islanders were completely cut off from the mainland on Thursday.
Russia’s Akademik Boris Petrov was spotted in North Sea waters near ShetlandCredit: Shipspotting,com
The spy ship was tracked by Britain’s Royal Navy
The Shetland Islands were plunged into a communication blackout when a deep-sea cable was cutCredit: Getty – Contributor
New data now shows the research ship Akademik Boris Petrov travelled through the Shetland-Orkney Gap hours later.
The Dutch warship HNLMS Tromp later moved to a position North East of the Isle of Lewis to intercept and escort it away from UK waters.
Akademik Boris Petrov has now carried on its journey to Brazil.
The ship originally left Kaliningrad on October 17 for its expedition. Its original route was set to see it go through the English Channel into the Atlantic.
But after it left Skagerrak it changed route and past vital underwater infrastructure in the North Sea.
Its original route had been through the English Channel and into the Atlantic.
It was also expected to go through sensitive waters off Faslane Naval base where Britain’s nuclear-submarine is based, according to the Auxiliary Shipping Forecast blog.
The route was also meant to past through waters off north west Ireland where critical transatlantic infrastructure is kept.
The Shetland Isles were plunged into a comms blackout Thursday after an under-sea cable was cut – knocking out phone and internet connection to the region.
A major incident was declared after the serious outage left the remote North Sea islands cut off from the mainland.
A Ministry of Defence source said at the time a civilian fishing trawler was believed to have caused the damage.
Tensions are high after the Russian attack on the Nord Stream under-sea gas pipeline last month.
Just weeks ago Irish politicians warned Putin could try to cut the vital communications link.
“The provocative change of route is almost certainly strategic messaging to the United Kingdom and is highly likely intended to raise tensions,” reports the Plenty Of Ships blog.
The ship is bristling with high-tech kit for underwater surveillance and intelligence gathering.
It is reportedly a “vessel-of-interest” for Western militaries.
Norwegian media said it is a “spy ship” despite its official scientific purpose.
Oslo sent F-35 jets to monitor its voyage close to oil platforms.
“It’s registered as a research vessel but it functions as a spy ship,” Ståle Ulriksen, an instructor at Norway’s naval academy, told broadcaster NRK.