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    Russian Navy expands anti-piracy mission in Gulf of Aden

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    The Russian Navy has extended the convoy route in the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden to 380 kilometers, the Pacific Fleet commander said on Friday.

    The Russian Navy has extended the convoy route in the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden to 380 kilometers, the Pacific Fleet commander said on Friday.

    Adm. Konstantin Sidenko said in an interview with RIA Novosti that the decision was made following the hijacking of the Moscow University tanker in May.

    "There is an international, so-called green, three-point corridor where we escort [commercial] vessels. After that incident we extended the route, moving further from the coast and now the convoy route is 200 nautical miles, or nearly 380 kilometers," he said.

    He also said naval infantry teams board Russian as well as foreign vessels with Russian crews when they pass through the Gulf of Aden to protect them against pirate attacks.

    He stressed that Russia and China are the only two countries at present that escort civilian vessels in the Horn of Africa.

    "All other members of the international anti-piracy coalition operate in designated areas and respond on an as-needed basis," the admiral said. "In other words, our tactics are the safest for the convoy vessels."

    He said convoys are on average comprised of 10-20 vessels.

    "Whoever comes along, we don't turn them away, but ours are the most sought-after convoys," he said.

    A task force led by the RFNS DDG Admiral Levchenko, an Udaloy-class guided-missile destroyer, arrived in the Gulf of Aden on July 3 to resume the UN anti-piracy mission near Somalia. It also includes the Olekma tanker and the SB-36 tugboat of Russia's Black Sea Fleet.

    The previous task force was led by the RFNS DDG Marshal Shaposhnikov that took part in releasing the Moscow University tanker hijacked on May 6.

    The Russian Navy has maintained a 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.

    MOSCOW, July 9 (RIA Novosti)

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