Russian warship English Channel
A Russian warship and amphibious military vehicles move during a naval parade rehearsal at the port of SeveromorskReuters

Russian navy ships from the country's northern fleet will hold anti-aircraft and anti-submarine defence drills in the northern Atlantic after entering the English Channel, according to Interfax news agency which quoted Russia's defence ministry.

It is not the first time that Russian warships have entered the Channel - but the issue of military drills has been controversial in the past.

In November 2014, a NATO official rejected Russian media reports that Russian warships, including the anti-submarine vessels Severomorsk, were conducting military exercises in the English Channel.

RIA news agency quoted the Northern Fleet as saying that its vessels were in international waters after passing through the Strait of Dover and were "undertaking a series of exercises on how to tackle infiltrating submarine forces" along with other survival techniques.

However, the French navy dismissed the report as Russian propaganda saying that the warships were "just waiting in a zone where they can be several times a year".

Lieutenant-Colonel Jay Janzen, NATO's military spokesman, also told Reuters the alliance was aware of the Russian ships' location.

"Our information indicates that the ships are transiting and have been delayed by weather conditions. They are not exercising in the Channel, as some Russian headlines would have us believe," he said.

In January 2015, two Russian bombers were intercepted over the English channel by the UK Royal Air Force (RAF), causing disruption to civil aviation, according to the British foreign office.

"Russian aircraft manoeuvres yesterday are part of increasing pattern of out of area operations by Russian aircraft," the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said.

UPDATE: The British Minister of Defence confirmed that RAF Typhoon jets were scrambled to meet Russian military planes spotted flying near UK airspace.

"The Russian planes were escorted by the RAF until they were out of the UK area of interest. At no time did the Russian military aircraft cross into UK sovereign airspace," the MoD said.