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Russia's Neustrashimy (Fearless) missile frigate will continue protecting commercial vessels
Russia's Neustrashimy (Fearless) missile frigate will continue protecting commercial vessels from pirate attacks off the Somali coast for another month, a senior officer on board the ship said on Friday.

In October, Russia dispatched the Neustrashimy from its Northern Fleet to Somalia's coast to protect shipping in the country's waters, where pirates frequently capture ships for ransom.

According to the UN, Somali pirates have attacked over 120 ships so far this year, resulting in the seizure of 39 vessels and the capture of at least 600 merchant seamen for ransom. The east African nation has been without a functioning government since 1991 and has no navy to police its coastline.

"We are planning to remain in the Gulf of Aden for another month, and our future deployment will depend on the decision adopted by the Navy command," Capt. 1st Rank Oleg Gurinov said.

During the current mission, the Neustrashimy has so far escorted six convoys, comprising a total of 20 ships, and prevented the seizure of at least two commercial vessels by pirates.

The Russian frigate has a variety of heavy weaponry on board, including artillery, anti-ship missiles, and torpedoes. However, the counter-terrorism team on board uses mainly large-caliber machineguns, assault rifles, and grenade launchers to repel pirate attacks.

"The use of artillery and missiles would be inappropriate. Small arms are sufficient," Gurinov said.

However, the officer said that the Neustrashimy, like any other foreign warship patrolling Somali waters, has no right to attack unidentified vessels it suspects of piracy.

"We may use weaponry against the pirates only when we are certain that a commercial vessel or our ship is under attack, because we must attempt to avoid the loss of human life," he said.

At the end of its current sortie, the Neustrashimy will be replaced with another warship from either Russia's Pacific or Northern Fleet, a source from the Navy's main headquarters told RIA Novosti.

Russia earlier said it would establish a regular presence for its warships in the trouble-hit region to ensure safe shipping along the Somali coast.


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