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Russian warship to start patrols off Somalia coast on Tuesday

RIA Novosti

27/10/2008 15:11 MOSCOW, October 27 (RIA Novosti) - A missile frigate from Russia's Baltic Fleet is to start patrolling waters in the Gulf of Aden on October 28 to protect Russian ships and crews from pirate attacks, a Navy spokesman said on Monday.

The Neustrashimy (Fearless) frigate arrived at the port of Aden on Sunday to replenish food and water supplies after a trip from the Mediterranean.

"The Russian warship is scheduled to leave Aden tomorrow and head to the Gulf of Aden to carry out missions to ensure the safety of Russian shipping in the region," Capt. 1st Rank Igor Dygalo said.

The Russian frigate is to join an international naval group which has surrounded a Ukrainian ship, the MV Faina, that was seized by Somali pirates on September 25. The Faina, which was carrying 33 T-72 tanks and other heavy weaponry, has a crew of 17 Ukrainian nationals, two Russians, and one Lithuanian on board.

The Faina's Russian captain died of a heart attack after the vessel was seized. The pirates holding the ship have demanded an $8 million ransom, and have threatened to kill the hostages if a military operation is launched against them.

The Neustrashimy's armament includes SS-N-25 Switchblade anti-ship missiles, SA-N-9 Gauntlet SAM, a 100-mm gun, torpedoes and depth charges. The frigate also carries a Ka-27 ASW helicopter.

"Neustrashimy has the right to use force, including the use of weapons, against pirates if necessary," Dygalo said.

Pirates are increasingly active in the waters off Somalia, which has no effective government and no navy to police its coastline. Somali pirates have seized around 60 ships so far this year off the coast of the east African nation.

At the beginning of June, the UN Security Council passed a resolution permitting countries to enter Somalia's territorial waters to combat "acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea."

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