Russia wants to fight pirates in Somalia’s waters

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia, which sent a warship to Somalia’s coast to combat pirates, asked the African nation on Thursday for carte blanche to use force in its territorial waters.

Last month Moscow sent the frigate “Neustrashimy” — or “Fearless” — to the Gulf of Aden, and the Russian navy said at the time that its ships would regularly head to zones where there was a danger from maritime piracy.

Some observers say Russia’s navy is being used by the Kremlin to project its renewed power.

“To ensure freedom of actions to fight piracy directly in Somalia’s territorial waters, the Foreign Ministry of Russia has requested the agreement of the Interim Federal Government of the Somali Republic to grant the Russian Federation ‘cooperating state’ status,” the ministry said in a statement.

“In cooperation with other nations, the Russian side intends to undertake all measures sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council to improve maritime situation in this region. Russia’s navy ship Neustrashimy is already on its way there.”

The Gulf of Aden and the east coast of Somalia rank as the top piracy hot spot, accounting for a third of all attacks on ships in the first nine months of 2008, the International Maritime Bureau said earlier on Thursday.

In the highest profile case, ransom talks are continuing after pirates seized a Ukrainian ship, the MV Faina, which was loaded with 33 T-72 tanks and other weaponry.

Russia’s foreign ministry said it was “deeply concerned” over the fate of the ship’s crew, which included three Russian nationals. One of the Russians — the ship’s captain — has died from cardiovascular disease in captivity.

Earlier this month NATO despatched warships to the region to help fight piracy and escort U.N. humanitarian aid ships off the coast of Somalia.

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