The Yantar, officially an oceanographic research vessel, is actually bristling with surveillance equipment as well as hosting a number of manned and unmanned deep-sea submersibles.
Its missions are thought to include cable cutting, laying of taps on undersea cables, and intelligence missions.
H I Sutton, an open source intelligence analyst who specialises in submarines and sub-surface systems is following the vessel. I recommend you follow him by clicking here in order to keep updated on this.
— H I Sutton (@CovertShores) September 13, 2021
The United States Navy has stated that the submersibles hosted by the Yantar are able to sever cables miles beneath the ocean’s surface. The submersibles are reportedly capable of operating at depths of up to 6,000 metres (20,000 ft) and are reportedly the project 16810 Rus-class submersible and the project 16811 Konsul-class submersible.
The vessel was recently near Ireland. In response to queries, the Irish Defence Force said it was aware of the presence of the vessel off the west coast of Ireland.
“Óglaigh na hÉireann can confirm that the Irish Naval Service is aware of the Russian ship Yantar transiting in the Irish exclusive economic zone off the west of Ireland. This ship is transmitting on the automatic identification system and is outside Irish territorial waters.
This activity is in line with the UN Convention on the Law Of the Sea (UNCLOS) rules for transit through international waters. Territorial waters are 12 nautical miles from the coast of Ireland and under UNCLOS, there is no restriction on ships operating on the high seas inside exclusive economic zones.”
It should also be remembered that the Yantar has also been deployed for search and rescue operations, notably helping in the search for missing Argentine submarine ARA San Juan in 2017.