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A task force from Russia's Pacific Fleet
A task force from Russia's Pacific Fleet left its main base in Vladivostok on Tuesday for a tour of duty in the Indian Ocean, a fleet official said.

The task force comprises the Admiral Vinogradov, an Udaloy class missile destroyer, a tugboat, and two tankers.

"The current tour of duty will demonstrate the ability of the Russian Navy to protect the country's interests in the world's oceans," said Capt. 1st Rank Roman Markov, a spokesman for the Pacific Fleet.

According to the official, the task force will pay a visit to the Indian port of Mormugao and participate in the joint naval exercises INDRA-2009 with the Indian Navy in January.

INDRA is a biennial Russian-Indian exercise aimed at practicing cooperation in enforcing maritime law and countering piracy, terrorism, and drug smuggling. INDRA-2009 is the fourth such exercise since 2003.

The task force will also conduct joint exercises with a task force from Russia's Northern Fleet, led by the Pyotr Veliky (Peter the Great) nuclear-powered missile cruiser, which will arrive in the Indian Ocean after a current tour of duty in the Atlantic and the Caribbean.

Following the exercises, the Admiral Vinogradov will replace the Neustrashimy (Fearless) missile destroyer from Russia's Northern Fleet in the Horn of Africa to protect commercial shipping from pirate attacks off the Somali coast.

Vice Admiral Konstantin Sidenko, commander of the Pacific Fleet, earlier said that Russian warships from the fleet would make several long-range training sorties in the South Pacific and Indian oceans in 2009, and participate in a number of exercises involving live-firing drills.

Russia announced last year that its navy had resumed and would build up a constant presence in different regions of the world's oceans.

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