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Around the world in 71 days: Russian navy sets sail

The Russian fleet is once again sailing the world's oceans. Eleven ships from the Northern fleet have set sail on a range of voyages that will cover much of the globe. During a meeting with Vladimir Putin, Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said the miss

The Defence Minister, Anatoly Serdyukov, has briefed President Putin on the new initiative.

“From Wednesday until February 3, 2008, the ships of the Northern Fleet are scheduled to go to the north-eastern Atlantic and also the Mediterranean Sea. The aim is to ensure a naval presence in the important regions of the world's oceans and to provide conditions to navigate Russian ships safely,” he said.

“In all, four combat ships, seven vessels, 47 planes and 10 helicopters are taking part. The vessels will cover more than 12,000 miles in 71 days,” Serdyukov added.

In the Black Sea, the ships will be joined by battle groups from the Baltic, Northern and Black Sea fleets. Together, they will conduct joint military exercises and tactical training.

The present Russian Navy was formed after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Back then, in 1991, its activities were severely hampered by a lack of funding.

Now the country has given the development of the navy equal priority with strategic nuclear forces.

Russia plans to replace 45% of its military inventory by 2015. It is hoped that this will serve to revive the proud traditions of a country whose navy was once a formidable force.