Missiles loaded onto nuclear sub HMS Audacious after Moscow's threat to Britain

The move is a show of force against Russian President Vladimir Putin after the Kremlin threatened Britain over its support of Ukraine. Audacious docked alongside the USS Georgia, an American nuclear sub that anchored at the port last week. The timing of the two ships’ arrivals highlights Gibraltar’s growing role as a naval logistics base and is viewed as a potential sign of unity by Western nations as NATO allies ramp up their opposition to Moscow’s invasion.

Among the most sophisticated underwater vehicles ever constructed, the HMS Audacious is one of seven Astute-class attack submarines built by BAE Systems for the Royal Navy.

At 97 metres long, the 7,400-tonne vessel can serve in a variety of key roles, including covert intelligence gathering and strategic strikes using the fearsome Tomahawk Land Attack Missile.

While at sea, it can reach more than 30 knots.

The USS Georgia, meanwhile, is an Ohio class ballistic missile submarine that, alongside another three US Navy submarines, has been converted to carry cruise missiles rather than Trident missiles.

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The ships’ movements reinforce the messages conveyed by the UK Government in its latest remarks on the conflict in Ukraine.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace on Thursday, April 28, said Britain’s priority is to “continue to support Ukraine’s sovereign integrity and their ability to defend themselves”.

He also backed comments made by Foreign Secretary Liz Truss on Wednesday, April 27, at a speech at Mansion House in London that Russian forces must leave all occupied Ukrainian territory, including Crimea, annexed in 2014, and the rebel-held Luhansk and Donetsk.

Ms Truss said it is time “to push Russia out of the whole of Ukraine” as she warned Putin could also be planning to invade Moldova and Georgia.

The Foreign Secretary’s urge for Western nations to “double down” and go “further and faster” against the Kremlin follows the launch of the battle for the Donbas.

Moscow announced on March 25 the first phase of its “military operation” in Ukraine was mostly complete and it would now focus on fully “liberating” the region home to the rebel-held Luhansk and Donetsk.

While there have so far been few advances in the area, with the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) claiming the Russians have so far “failed” to take down Ukraine’s air defences in its battle, Mr Wallace stressed it is crucial to “get Russia out of where they are now”.

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Asked on Sky News if Ms Truss was referring to Crimea when claiming the entirety of Ukraine should be liberated from Putin’s forces, the Defence Secretary said: “Well, the international community believes Russia should leave Ukraine.

“The international community has condemned Russia for its invasion of Crimea, which was illegal in 2014. Its invasion of Donetsk, recognising it is illegal, is somewhat different.

“We don’t recognise it and we’ve constantly said that Russia should leave sovereign territory. So that hasn’t changed.”

Later, pushed on how far the West will support Ukraine in removing Russian troops, Mr Wallace said there is a “long way to go” before there is the prospect of Ukraine taking back control of Crimea.

However, he said the UK supports “Ukraine’s sovereign integrity”.

He stressed: “We’ve done that all along. That, of course, includes Crimea.”

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