Russia has mocked the UK’s new aircraft carrier in retaliation for “arrogant” comments made by the Defence Secretary.
The spat began after Sir Michael Fallon described Moscow’s only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, as “old and dilapidated”.
Sir Michael had said Russia would be looking at Britain’s new vessel, HMS Queen Elizabeth, with a “little bit of envy”.
However, spokesman Igor Konashenkov dismissed the British aircraft carrier as “just a convenient oversized target at sea”, and claimed Sir Michael’s remarks proved he has a “clear lack of naval knowledge”.
The Russian official added: “It is in the interests of the British Royal Navy not to show off the ‘beauty’ of its aircraft carrier on the high seas any closer than a few hundred miles to its Russian ‘distant relative’.”
Although the Admiral Kuznetsov dates back to the Soviet era, Moscow says its aircraft carrier can defend itself with an array of offensive and defensive weapons – unlike the British vessel which relies on escort ships for protection.
HMS Queen Elizabeth, which set out on its maiden voyage from its dock in Scotland on Monday, cost £3bn to build.
Meanwhile, the Admiral Kuznetsov is set to undergo a costly refurbishment at a port in the northern city of Murmansk.
The vessel had been involved in Moscow’s air campaign in support of President Bashar al Assad in Syria, but it suffered several high-profile mishaps.
Relations between the UK and Russia – former Cold War foes – have slumped to their lowest point in decades over the Ukraine conflict.