Russia asks Somalia for 'freedom' to tackle pirates

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Moscow, Oct 23 (UNI) Russia has asked Somalia for freedom to tackle the country's pirate problem amid growing concern for the fate of a captured ship's crew.

''To ensure freedom of action in the fight against piracy directly in Somali territorial waters, the Russian Foreign Ministry has asked for consent from the Somali Republic's Transitional Federal Government to grant the Russian Federation the status of a 'cooperating state','' Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement today.

A Russian warship, Neustrashimy, is on its way to east African waters to join an international naval group, which has surrounded a Ukrainian ship the MV Faina after it was seized by Somali pirates on September 25.

The Faina, which was carrying tanks and heavy weapons, has a crew of 17 Ukrainian nationals, two Russians, and one Lithuanian on board.

The Faina's Russian captain died of heart attack after the vessel was seized. The pirates holding the ship have demanded an eight million dollar ransom, and have threatened to kill the hostages if a military operation is launched against them.

Pirates are increasingly active in the waters off Somalia, which has no effective government and no navy to police its coastline.

Somali pirates have seized around 30 ships so far this year off the coast of the east African nation.

UNI XC PD BD2045

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