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29 Apr, 2009 13:23

Russian destroyer scuppers Somali pirates

A Russian destroyer has captured a boat containing 29 suspected Somali pirates. The group is thought to have carried out two attacks on a Russian tanker on Tuesday, April 28, but was repelled by the crew.

According to the Russian Defence Ministry, the interception by the Admiral Panteleyev took place 15 miles off shore. A number of assault rifles and handguns, along with satellite equipment and ammunition, were found onboard the pirate boat.

The destroyer began patrolling the Gulf of Aden just a few days ago after joining the international anti-piracy campaign.

The fight has been taken up on land with Somali vigilantes capturing 12 armed pirates.

Now the Russian Navy is in talks with the countries that border Somalia over what to do with the twenty-nine suspected pirates.

“Although international anti-piracy operations are developing rapidly, there are complications in bringing the suspected pirates to account. The countries involved in fighting pirates off Somalia haven't worked out any mutual agreements on this issue,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrey Nesterenko said, adding that Russia is ready to get involved in those agreements.

“If Russia decides to deal with them properly and find proof that this gang attacked a Russian tanker then of course Russia has the right to take this gang to court in Russia. Some western countries already do it this way – France and the United States,” maritime expert and editor-in-chief at Sovfrakht Maritime Bulletin Mikhail Voytenko said.

Hundreds held

Hundreds of sailors are currently being held hostage in northern Somalia, with many coming from countries like the Philippines, but there are also dozens from Russia, Ukraine and other post-Soviet states.

According to the International Maritime Bureau, Somali pirates have hijacked 25 vessels since the beginning of this year.

“We have to help Somalia economically. Fighting pirates just militarily won’t help,” Voitenko says.

The pirates' largest capture to-date was the Sirius Star – a giant oil tanker captured in November last year. After the owners paid a $3 million ransom the ship was released two months later.

Last September the Ukrainian ship ‘Faina’ loaded with tanks was captured. The crew was held for five months while negotiations for their release went on.

If the UN really wants to put an end to piracy, they must not be lenient to them, suggests Viktor Nikolsky, captain of Faina:

“If it's deemed unlawful – it must be destroyed immediately. Only such measures will stop piracy. Only after that should we raise the questions about providing humanitarian help to the population of Somalia. We must first free all the crews they've captured and solve the problem militarily,” said Nikolsky.

Around 20 warships from the navies of at least a dozen countries are involved in anti-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia. According to the United Nations, Somali pirates carried out at least 120 attacks on ships in 2008, resulting in combined ransom payouts of around $150 million.