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Russian warship escorts first commercial convoy off Somali coast


VLADIVOSTOK, May 4 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's Admiral Panteleyev destroyer is escorting its first convoy of merchant vessels through the Gulf of Aden, the Russian Pacific Fleet said Monday.

A flotilla of Pacific Fleet ships, comprised of the Admiral Panteleyev, salvage tug SB-37, the Izhora and Irkut tankers, a naval infantry unit and two combat helicopters, arrived from Vladivostok to the Gulf of Aden on April 27 to take part in international anti-piracy efforts off the Horn of Africa.

The convoy is expected to pass through the dangerous waters by Tuesday evening, when a new one will be formed for the return journey.

Russia's defense minister said last Wednesday Russian warships would continue to patrol pirate-infested waters off the Somali coast to ensure the safety of commercial shipping in the area.

The Admiral Panteleyev is an Udaloy-class missile destroyer armed with anti-ship missiles, 30-mm and 100-mm guns, and Ka-27 Helix helicopters.

The warship replaced another Russian destroyer, the Admiral Vinogradov, which joined the anti-piracy operation off the coast of Somalia at the beginning of January.

During its mission, which ended in mid-March, the Admiral Vinogradov destroyer escorted 12 convoys comprising a total of 54 ships from 17 countries, and thwarted several pirate attacks on various vessels.

Around 20 warships from the navies of at least a dozen countries are involved in anti-piracy operations off Somalia. According to the United Nations, Somali pirates carried out at least 120 attacks on ships in 2008, resulting in combined ransom payouts of around $150 million.

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