This is being done to defend the lives of Russian citizens and to ensure the safety of shipping
Russia has dispatched a warship to the pirate-ridden waters off Somalia, after a Ukrainian freighter was seized on Thursday.
The Belize-flagged Faina with a crew of 21 people and a cargo that reportedly included battle tanks and armoured vehicle spares, was hijacked while on its way to the Kenyan port of Mombasa.
Andrew Mwangura of the Seafarers Assistance Programme said the cargo ship had been transporting 2,320 tonnes of military hardware from the Baltic.
Igor Dygalo, Russia's Navy spokesman, said their frigate, the Neustrashimy (Fearless), was dispatched on Friday in response to "the rise in pirate attacks, including against Russian citizens".
"In the future, the Russian navy will send its ships on a regular basis to zones where there is a danger from maritime piracy," Dygalo told Russia's Vesti-24 television station.
"This is being done to defend the lives of Russian citizens, should such a danger appear, and to ensure the safety of shipping."
The Faina's whereabouts were unknown on Friday, but Somali pirates often take ships to Eyl, a harbour in the lawless country's northern breakaway region of Puntland.
Ukraine's foreign ministry said the Ukrainian-based Tomax Team company lost contact with one of its freighters when the ship's captain said pirates were approaching the ship.
"The captain reported that three cutter boats with armed people approached the Faina, and then communication was cut off," a statement said, quoting information given by Tomax Team.
"The ship was transporting military hardware, including some 30 T-72 tanks and spare parts for armoured vehicles," Russia's Interfax news agency said.
The Soviet-era T-72 was a frontline tank in Warsaw Pact states and is still in service in more than 30 countries.
Dozens of ships, mainly merchant vessels, have been seized by gangs off Somalia's 3,700km coastline in recent years, despite the presence of Western navies deployed in the region to fight terrorism.
Pirates travel in speedboats and are armed with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades. They sometimes hold ships for weeks until they are released for large ransoms paid by governments or owners.
In recent months, a multinational taskforce based in Djibouti has been patrolling parts of the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea.
French naval commandos have taken action against pirates who seized two sailing vessels with French citizens aboard and arrested a dozen suspects.
They were brought to France and are awaiting trial on charges of hijacking, hostage-taking and armed robbery, which carry life sentences.
Some pirates have justified their actions by claiming that, in the absence of a functional central authority in Somalia, they were battling illegal fishing and toxic waste dumping by foreign countries.
Insecurity has plagued Somalia since the 1991 removal of President Mohamed Siad Barre set off a deadly power struggle that has defied more than a dozen peace initiatives.
USS Howard Monitoring MV Faina
The U.S. 5th Fleet continues to actively monitor the situation with Motor Vessel Faina, the Belize-flagged cargo ship, which was captured Sept. 25.
San Diego-based destroyer USS Howard (DDG 83) is on station and is in visual range of MV Faina, which is anchored off the Somalia coast near the harbor city of Hobyo.
"Howard is on-station," said Cmdr. Curtis Goodnight, Howard commanding officer. "My crew is actively monitoring the situation, keeping constant watch on the vessel and the waters in the immediate vicinity."
Two other pirated vessels, MV Capt Stefanos and MV Centauri, are also anchored at this location.
This incident highlights the complexity of the situation in the region. MV Faina is owned and operated by "Kaalybe Shipping Ukraine" and is carrying a cargo of T-72 tanks and related equipment. Its crew is comprised of citizens from Ukraine, Russia and Latvia. There is no indication that the ship had a security team aboard.
Howard is part of the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group, which is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations to conduct Maritime Security Operations (MSO).
MSO help develop security in the maritime environment. From security arises stability that results in global economic prosperity. MSO complements the counterterrorism and security efforts of regional nations and seek to disrupt violent extremists' use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons or other material.