The Royal Navy's HMS St Albans shadowed a Russian vessel through the North Sea as the navy said there has been a sharp "upsurge" in Moscow's activities near the UK waters amid Britain's concerns that the undersea cables in the region face threats from Russia.

The British frigate was set to sail on Saturday (23 December) to keep a close watch on the Russian vessel Admiral Gorshkov's movements and will return to its home-port in Portsmouth later on the Boxing Day. A Wildcat helicopter was also deployed during the holiday period to monitor the activities of two other Russian ships.

While Russia is yet to comment on the matter amid the strained relations between the countries, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said the UK will not be "intimated" when it comes to its national security matters.

"I will not hesitate in defending our waters or tolerate any form of aggression," said Williamson. "Britain will never be intimidated when it comes to protecting our country, our people, and our national interests."

The 190-strong company aboard British vessel remained at sea on the Christmas Day and its crew are among the 4,000 sailors who are either deployed or on standby across the world.

"My ship's company take great pride in serving Great Britain and the role they play dealing with both the routine and unexpected," said the vessel's Commander Chris Ansell. "Missing parts of Christmas and New Year with our families is never easy, but it is absolutely required as part of our duty to keep Britain safe all year round."

The latest incident is in addition to the deployment of HMS Tyne, which was to escort a Russian intelligence-gathering vessel through the North Sea on Christmas Eve.

It also comes days after Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov locked horns on cyber-attacks and Russia's alleged interference in foreign elections. While the UK's top diplomat said there is "abundant evidence" to show Russia's meddling in elections taking place in other nations, his Russian counterpart shot back saying there is no such proof.

UK frigate and Russian vessel
Images from an infrared camera on a helicopter show Royal Navy frigate HMS St Albans escorting Russian warship Admiral Gorshkov as it passes close to UK territorial waters through the North Sea in an image from an infrared camera on a helicopter handed out by Britain's Royal Navy Handout via Reuters