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4 Jun, 2008 12:45

Russian navy ready to use force against Somali pirates

Russia's navy says it is ready to intervene at any time in the case of four Russians being held hostage by Somali pirates. Negotiations are reportedly underway to secure the release of the four Russian and five Filipino sailors captured in Somalia last we

Pirates target easy prey – big cargo ships owned by European companies. In just three days a Dutch, a Turkish and a German vessel have been captured off the Somali coast.

The owners of the Dutch vessel are thought to be negotiating a ransom for its nine crew members, among which there are four Russians. Media reports say the pirates are demanding $US 1.1 million.

Meanwhile, the pirates have threatened to kill the crew if they are attacked. They were angered when French troops used force to release the crew of a luxury liner captured last month. Some pirates were killed while some were imprisoned.

According to the UN at least two dozen ships have been hijacked off Somalia this year. This has triggered an international response. The UN Security Council has unanimously authorized foreign warships to enter Somali waters and take on the pirates.

The UN response followed a request from Somali officials who asked for military help. The country says that one of the main obstacles to fighting piracy is that ship owners are often willing to pay the ransom.

Russia says it would prefer to find a peaceful solution, while its navy assures that it is ready to intervene.

In February 2008, Russian sailors were released for a reported ransom of $US 700,000. They spent two months in captivity. But as the pirates increase their appetites and are getting more impatient for money there is a new urgency in finding more efficient measures to fight them.