The HMS Sutherland monitored Steregushchiy-class corvettes Soobrazitelny and Boiky as well as a Russian support tanker and ocean-going tug when they sailed close to UK territorial waters on Saturday.
The ships were located by the Plymouth-based Type 23 frigate as they sailed through the North Sea towards the Dover Strait.
The defence secretary, Sir Michael Fallon, said: “HMS Sutherland is carefully marking these Russian ships as they pass close to UK waters. The Royal Navy maintains a vigilant watch and is always ready to keep Britain safe.”
It comes at a time of heightened tension with Russia, with the UK foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, and his French counterpart, Jean-Marc Ayrault, criticising the country for vetoing a UN security council resolution on Syria.
They accused Moscow and Tehran of covering up details of Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons.
Commander Andrew Canale, commanding officer of HMS Sutherland, said: “As one of the Royal Navy’s high-readiness units, HMS Sutherland is required to escort warships that approach the UK and this task is considered routine business for us. It is vitally important the Royal Navy demonstrates its presence and commitment to the integrity of UK territorial waters as we work around the clock to secure the seas of our island nation.”
The Royal Navy frigate was designed to deal with the Soviet submarine threat but now acts as a high-readiness unit and can be called upon for escort duties, search and rescue or to conduct counter-terrorism operations.
In January, HMS St Albans escorted Russian carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, battlecruiser Petr Velikiy and a tug as they passed close to UK territorial waters.
The RAF and navy were also scrambled several times last year to escort Russian aircraft and ships near the UK.
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