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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Russian support ship to join fight against Somali pirates

RIA Novosti

05/11/2008 15:29 MOSCOW, November 5 (RIA Novosti) - A Russian Baltic Fleet's supply-tanker Yelnya is due on Wednesday to join up with a missile frigate involved in protecting Russian merchant ships from pirates in African waters, a naval source said.

The Neustrashimy (Fearless) frigate entered waters off the Somali coast last Monday where local pirates have intensified their attacks on ships in the area in exchange for ransom demands.

"By the end of the day the Yelnya vessel will enter the area patrolled by the Neustrashimy frigate to supply the warship with water and food," Capt. 1st Rank Igor Dygalo said.

Meanwhile, the Russian Navy is continuing to monitor negotiations and developments around a hijacked Ukrainian ship, which was carrying tanks and heavy weaponry when it was seized by Somali pirates on September 25.

U.S. warships from the 5th Fleet have surrounded the MV Faina which has a crew of 17 Ukrainian nationals, two Russians, and one Lithuanian on board.

Tough negotiations with pirates, who threatened to kill the crew if their ransom demands were not met, have been continuing for 40 days.

The Faina's Russian captain died of a heart attack when the ship was seized. Earlier the pirates were reported to have demanded an $8 million ransom to free the ship's crew.

The London-based As-Shark al-Ausat newspaper, however, cited on Saturday anonymous sources in Somalia as saying the pirates were demanding a $5 million ransom for the release of the ship's crew and that the hostage talks were entering their final stage.

Somali pirates have attacked around 60 ships so far this year resulting in the seizure of around 30 vessels off the coast of the east African nation, which has no effective government and no navy to police its coastline.

NATO and EU announced plans to increase their naval presence in the Gulf of Aden, which has been declared one of the busiest and most dangerous shipping lanes with about 20,000 vessels passing through the area annually.

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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