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A RAF Typhoon monitors Russian warships Pyotr Velikiy and the Admiral Kuznetsov (rear) as they pass close to UK territorial waters. Ministry of Defence/Crown Copyright 2017/Handout via REUTERS

(reuters_tickers)

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia on Thursday said the British government was staging a show by escorting a Russian aircraft carrier through the English Channel designed to distract attention away from the shortcomings of the British navy.

Royal Air Force Typhoon jets and a Royal Navy frigate escorted the Admiral Kuznetsov on Wednesday as it returned from a mission off Syria to its base in northern Russia.

British Defence Minister Michael Fallon described the Russian vessel as a "ship of shame" for its role in Moscow's Syria operation and said his armed forces were watching it closely to protect British national security.

"The aim of such statements, and the kind of show being played out with the escort of our ships, is to distract the attention of British tax payers from the real state of the British Royal Navy," said Igor Konashenkov, spokesman for the Russian Defence Ministry.

"Firstly, Russian naval vessels don't need senseless escort services. They know their navigating channel and heading," Konashenkov said in a statement.

"Secondly, I would advise Mr Fallon to devote more attention to the British navy, especially since, as the English press recently noted, there are grounds for doing that."

The Russian defence ministry's statement referred to media reports that a test-firing of a missile from a British submarine off Florida last year had gone wrong, with the missile veering off course towards the United States.

(Reporting by Christian Lowe; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

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