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U.S. Navy Bolsters Watch Over Ship Seized by Somali Pirates

Ukrainian authorities said they had no confirmation of the death.

Russia, which had already pledged to deploy its navy to combat increased hijackings by Somali pirates, said Friday it would send a Russian warship to deal with the hijacked Ukranian vessel.

"In a situation in which the lives of Russian citizens could be in danger, the navy reserves the right to act on its own," Russian navy spokesman Igor Dygalo said last week.

The Russian military said the warship was in the Baltic Sea at the time of its deployment order, meaning it would take days to reach the scene. Christensen said that delay helped prompt the U.S. Navy to deploy its own ships.

Somali pirates have launched what the International Maritime Bureau calls the greatest surge of piracy in modern times. The pirates have attacked more than 60 ships this year off Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden. The Gulf of Aden leads to the Suez Canal and is the main shipping route from Asia and the Middle East to Europe.

The Somali pirates typically demand more than $1 million per vessel in ransom. Negotiations between pirates and shipowners have taken months at times, with the hijacked crews held captive in Somalia until an agreement is reached.

Correspondents Philip P. Pan in Moscow and Stephanie McCrummen in Washington contributed to this report.

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