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Russia plans to rotate warships off Somalia coast in July


VLADIVOSTOK, June 2 (RIA Novosti) - The commander of Russia's Pacific Fleet, Vice Admiral Konstantin Sidenko, has issued an order to prepare a new task force for anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden, a fleet spokesman said on Tuesday.

"The fleet's headquarters has decided to send a third task force to the Gulf of Aden. The preparations for the mission are under way. The task force comprises a warship with two helicopters, a rescue tugboat, a tanker and a unit of naval infantry," the official said.

He added that the task force would most likely depart for the Gulf of Aden in the beginning of July, and would be the fourth Russian grouping to join the international anti-piracy efforts off the Somali coast. The first came from the Baltic Fleet.

The current Pacific Fleet task force is led by the Admiral Panteleyev destroyer, an Udaloy-class missile destroyer armed with anti-ship missiles, 30-mm and 100-mm guns, and two Ka-27 Helix helicopters.

The destroyer in April seized a boat carrying 29 suspected pirates, believed to have been involved in the unsuccessful attack on a Russian-crewed oil tanker as it passed through the Gulf of Aden en route to Singapore.

The warship later prevented a pirate attack on a cargo vessel while escorting a convoy of six merchant ships through the Gulf of Aden.

Somalia has been without an effective government since the Revolutionary Socialist Party was overthrown in 1991. The internationally recognized federal government controls only the capital city of Mogadishu and part of central Somalia.

The United Nations has said that pirates have collected $150 million in ransom payments from ship owners in 2008 while overall losses from piracy were estimated at $13-16 billion, including the soaring cost of insurance and protection for vessels, as well as sending ships on longer routes to avoid high-risk areas.

Around 35 warships from the navies of 16 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.

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