The Russian Pacific Fleet's Udaloy-class missile destroyer Marshal Shaposhnikov started on Friday escorting civilian vessels off Somali coast to protect the ships from pirates, a Russian Navy spokesman said.
A Russian Pacific Fleet task force comprising the Marshal Shaposhnikov, the MB-37 salvage tug and the Pechenga tanker arrived in the Gulf of Aden on March 29 to join the anti-piracy mission there.
"The Pacific Fleet task force has started fulfilling tasks to ensure navigation security" in the pirate-infested area, the spokesman said.
"Currently, the Marshal Shaposhnikov is escorting a convoy of 13 civilian ships," he said.
Somali pirates carried out a record number of attacks and hijackings in 2009. According to the Piracy Reporting Center of the International Maritime Bureau, a total of 217 vessels were attacked last year, resulting in 47 hijackings.
The Marshal Shaposhnikov destroyer has two naval helicopters and a unit of naval infantry on board.
The Russian Navy has maintained a near-permanent presence off the Horn of Africa, with warships operating on a rotation basis. Russia joined international anti-piracy efforts off the Somali coast in October 2008.
The task force is the fourth group of warships from the Russian Pacific Fleet engaged in the anti-piracy mission off Somalia, with the previous three task forces led by the Admiral Vinogradov, Admiral Panteleyev and the Admiral Tributs destroyers. The Northern and Baltic fleets have also sent task forces to the region.
MOSCOW, April 2 (RIA Novosti)