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    Joint Russian-French naval exercise starts in Atlantic

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    A joint Russian-French naval exercise has started in the northeastern Atlantic, a Russian Navy spokesman said.

    MOSCOW, January 24 (RIA Novosti) - A joint Russian-French naval exercise has started in the northeastern Atlantic, a Russian Navy spokesman said.

    Russia is represented by the Admiral Chabanenko destroyer, a member of the Russian task force, which is currently on a two-month tour of duty in the Mediterranean Sea and the North Atlantic, while France is represented by the Tourville frigate.

    The Russian task force, led by the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier and also comprising the Udaloy-Class destroyer Admiral Levchenko, has been joined by the flagship of Russia's Black Sea Fleet, the Moskva guided missile cruiser, in the current maneuvers.

    Captain First Rank Igor Dygalo said the joint exercise - PASSEX (Passing Exercise) - would lead to a better understanding between the two countries' navies, adding that, "The cooperation between the ships of the two fleets...will lead to a higher level of mutual understanding and trust while performing joint security missions at sea."

    The Russian warships, which have already conducted live fire practice, will also master interoperability with naval aviation and Tu-160 strategic bombers.

    The operation is the first large-scale Russian Navy exercise in the Atlantic for the past 15 years. All the combat ships and aircraft involved are carrying a full combat ammunition load, the Navy official said.

    The Commander of Russia's Northern Fleet Vice-Admiral Nikolai Maksimov, who is heading the task force, earlier said that the current tour of duty to the Mediterranean, which started on December 5, was aimed at ensuring Russia's naval presence "in key operational areas of the world's oceans" and establishing conditions for secure Russian maritime navigation.

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