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Russia wants freedom to tackle Somali pirates

Russia wants freedom to tackle Somali pirates 24.10.2008 Source: en.rian.ru

Russia has asked Somalia for freedom to tackle the country's pirate problem amid growing concern for the fate of a captured ship's crew, the Foreign Ministry said Thursday.

A Russian naval vessel is en route to east African waters to join an international naval group, which has surrounded a Ukrainian ship the MV Faina after it was seized by Somali pirates on September 25. The Faina, which was carrying tanks and heavy weapons, has a crew of 17 Ukrainian nationals, two Russians, and one Lithuanian on board.

"To ensure freedom of action in the fight against piracy directly in Somali territorial waters, the Russian Foreign Ministry has asked for consent from the Somali Republic's Transitional Federal Government to grant the Russian Federation the status of a 'cooperating state,'" the ministry said.

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 (Fearless) missile frigate is tasked with protecting Russian vessels and foreign ships with Russian crewmembers from potential pirate attacks.

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 30 ships so far this year off the coast of the east African nation.

The Yemeni president said on Thursday that countries affected by piracy will gather for a conference on maritime security in the region.

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