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25 Jun, 2009 23:05

Maritime exhibition opens in St. Petersburg

The Fourth International Maritime Defense Show now being held in St. Petersburg is showcasing not only a wide range of ships, but also the strength of Russia's naval forces.

The naval show started in a rather unexpected place: up in the air. Two famous Russian aerobatic teams, Russkiye Vityazi (The Russian Knights) and Strizhi (The Swifts), boasted their skills over the waters of the Gulf of Finland to resounding applause.

The opening ceremony also featured the man responsible for St Petersburg’s naval prowess, Peter the Great, who founded the city in 1703 and turned it into a maritime capital.

“I welcome you all, my sons, daughters and guests from faraway countries, into the cradle of Russia’s shipping industry! I am happy that this show is taking place here, where 300 years ago the nascent Russian fleet achieved its first victories,” an actor playing Peter the Great told the gathering.

The show features everything that can move in or under the water. Overall there are more than 50 different craft, the majority of them Russian.

According to the commander in chief of the Russian Navy, Vladimir Vysotsky, everything that the Russian naval industry can present was being shown in St Petersburg. He added that Russia will do her best to present even more hardware in future exhibitions around the world.

“I am sure that by 2010 or 2011 we will be ready to show even more and display the projects that the navy scientists have been working on over the past several years," Vysotsky said.

Hundreds of Russian and foreign companies and visitors have come onboard for a glimpse of the Russian Navy's latest equipment.

The industry demonstrated how much it has changed since the Russian fleet achieved its first victories 300 years ago, with all the stages of shipbuilding and marine equipment construction on display.

This year, Spain, Britain and France joined the show, which has been taking place biannually since 2003. Despite the global economic crisis, more than 350 enterprises from 28 different countries participated this year, and more than 50 countries sent delegations to see what is new on the market.

Two years ago this show welcomed a ship from abroad for the first time, and today it already ranks among the three leading maritime and naval fairs in the world. And St Petersburg has once again become a center for promoting Russia’s naval glory.

Russia's floating highlights included the multi-purpose frigate Yaroslav Mudry, a long-awaited recent addition to the Navy, and the corvette Steregushchiy, the newest of its kind in Russia's fleet.

Russia’s deputy prime minister, Sergey Ivanov, who is supervising the show, visited several ships and officially declared that the country's naval industry is back in action.

“In the 1990s, Russia hardly built any modern surface craft. Today, we're actively building corvettes and frigates, with full funding – in St. Petersburg, of course,” Sergey Ivanov said. “Not because of any military threat, but because of piracy off Somalia and elsewhere.”

More on the story: Russia launches first nuclear submarine since USSR's collapse