Russian destroyer protects ships from pirates
MOSCOW, April 5 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian Pacific Fleet's Udaloy class missile destroyer Marshal Shaposhnikov started escorting 15 civilian vessels through the Gulf of Aden near the Somali coast on Monday to protect the ships from pirates, a Russian Navy spokesman said.
The Marshal Shaposhnikov destroyer has two naval helicopters and a unit of naval infantry on board.
"The weapons and technical equipment on the ships are functioning properly. The crew is healthy and carrying out duties on schedule," the spokesman said.
A Russian Pacific Fleet task force comprising the Marshal Shaposhnikov, the MB-37 salvage tug and the Pechenga tanker arrived in the Gulf of Aden on March 29 to join the anti-piracy mission there.
Somali pirates carried out a record number of attacks and hijackings in 2009. According to the International Maritime Bureau Piracy Reporting Center, a total of 217 vessels were attacked last year, resulting in 47 hijackings.
The Russian Navy has maintained a near-permanent presence off the Horn of Africa, with warships operating on a rotation basis. Russia joined international anti-piracy efforts off the Somali coast in October 2008.
The task force is the fourth group of warships from the Russian Pacific Fleet engaged in the anti-piracy mission off Somalia. The previous three task forces were led by the Admiral Vinogradov, Admiral Panteleyev and the Admiral Tributs destroyers. The Northern and Baltic fleets have also sent task forces to the region.
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