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Russian frigate protects nine ships from Somali pirates

RIA Novosti

21/11/2008 15:50 MOSCOW, November 21 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's Neustrashimy (Fearless) missile frigate is escorting an international convoy of nine vessels past the Horn of Africa to protect them from Somali pirate attacks, a Russian Navy spokesman said on Friday.

Cap. 1st rank Igor Dygalo, an aide to the Russian Navy commander, said the Neustrashimy is escorting one vessel from each of Russia, the Marshall Islands and the Cayman Islands, and six Liberian ships.

"The Russian Navy will continue its presence in the Horn of Africa region with the aim of providing safe shipping," Dygalo said.

However, he rejected Russian media reports saying the Navy plans to deploy a large group of warships in the area.

"Talk of the possible presence of a large Russian Navy grouping on a regular basis in the Horn of Africa area is premature, as the Russian Navy does not have permanent bases in the area," he said.

International concern over shipping safety in the region has risen since a huge tanker carrying up to 2 million barrels of Saudi oil was seized on Saturday.

Somali pirates have attacked around 83 ships so far this year, resulting in the seizure of around 33 vessels, including 200 crew members. The East African nation has been without a functioning government since 1991.

The Neustrashimy recently joined an international naval group that has surrounded a Ukrainian ship, the MV Faina, seized by Somali pirates almost two months ago. The Faina's Russian captain died of a heart attack after the vessel was seized.


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