Russian 'ghost ships' have been spotted in the North Sea, with Scandinavian broadcasters claiming that Putin's ships are mapping vulnerabilities of Western countries, including the UK.
Vessels, which have been disguised as research ships and fishing trawlers, have reportedly been spotted off of the coast of Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. Ships have also allegedly been spotted in the North Sea near Scotland.
The documentary series Shadow War, which was produced by four Scandinavian public service broadcasters, alleges that up to 50 ships have been uncovered being of Russian origin.
The ships are reportedly being used to map out wind farms, energy pipelines and internet cables in the event that war breaks out across the continent. Senior Danish intelligence officials said: “In the event of a conflict with the West, they will be ready and know where to intervene if they wish to paralyse Danish society.”
There are also accusations that Russia could be preparing to sabotage lines of NATO allies before any direct conflict between the security alliance and Russia.
What are Russian ghost ships?
Ghost ships refer directly to a type of ship which is able to turn off its Automatic Identification System to go undetected. They are not able to be picked up by ship-tracking devices, however are still identifiable through other methods such as satellite tracking.
Russia has used similar stealth techniques with its aircraft. Warplanes have refused in the past to identify themselves to RAF Typhoons.
The vessel named 'Admiral Vladimirsky' - a Russian research ship - is believed to be involved in the reported espionage. During the 'Shadow War' documentary, journalists came across a ship, believed to be the Admiral Vladimirsky, which had men with balaclavas and armed with guns.
Are Russian ghost ships a threat to the UK?
It is believed that the closest the ghost ships have gotten to the UK in near offshore wind farms in the North Sea off the coast of Scotland. Niels Fastrup, from Danish broadcaster DR, told Scottish broadcaster STV: "It seems to have been loitering for a few days in the Moray Firth area.
"According to the source we've been talking to, and we gave them a look into our data, what they believe is, it is investigating some of the offshore wind farms in Scottish waters.
"The next time it stopped was at the Seagreen wind farm outside of Aberdeen. According to our experts and intelligence sources we've been talking to, the purpose of that stop was also to investigate the Seagreen wind farm in order to look for possible vulnerabilities to exploit in the event of an escalation in the current conflict situation between Russia and the Western world."