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With pirate attacks on the rise off the coast of Somalia,
With pirate attacks on the rise off the coast of Somalia, Russia's Neustrashimy (Fearless) frigate is currently escorting trade ships in the area, the Russian Navy said Friday.

Captain 1st rank Igor Dygalo, an aide to the Russian Navy commander, said the Neustrashimy is escorting the Greek ship Ellivita, China's Nord Saturn, and Russia's Sachi Maaru off the Horn of Africa.

The Neustrashimy is continually scanning the area with radiotechnical equipment, and maintains contact with NATO ships, Dygalo said.

Dygalo said earlier this week that the Neustrashimy and Britain's HMS Cumberland frigate had prevented the seizure of a Danish merchant vessel by pirates off Somalia's coast.

"Pirates opened fire on the vessel and made two attempts to capture it. Their actions were prevented by the joint efforts of Russian and British warships. A Ka-27 helicopter took off from the Neustrashimy, and a Lynx helicopter took off from the HMS Cumberland," he said.

The Neustrashimy entered Somali waters in late October. Somali pirates have attacked around 60 ships so far this year, resulting in the seizure of around 30 vessels. The East African nation has been without a functioning government since 1991 and has no navy to police its coastline.

A Ukrainian ship, the Faina, carrying tanks and heavy weaponry was seized by Somali pirates on September 25. After being held for seven weeks, the Russian-Ukrainian crew has run out of fuel and food. The Russian captain of the Faina, Vladimir Kolobkov, died of a heart attack after the vessel was seized, and his body is still on board. The pirates holding the ship have reportedly demanded a $5 million ransom, and threatened to kill the hostages if a military operation is launched against them.

NATO and the EU have recently announced plans to increase their naval presence in the Gulf of Aden. About 20,000 vessels pass through the region annually.

In early 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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