Russia's Baltic fleet warships heading for Baltops 2003 exercises

The naval harbor in Baltiisk on Thursday saw a ceremony marking the departure of the destroyer Nastoichivy and the large landing craft Kaliningrad, which are to participate in annual international naval exercises Baltops-2003.

The departure ceremony was attended by the Russian Navy commander-in-chief, Admiral of the Navy Vladimir Kuroyedov.

The Baltic Fleet press office told RIA Novosti the exercise would take place for the 31st time. Some 50 warships and more than 20 aircraft will take part. It will be the eighth time Russia will have participated in the exercise.

Since last year, Baltic Fleet warships have been taking part in both phases of the maneuvers, not just the first, which used to be conducted in the Partnership for Peace program's framework.

From June 6 to 9, ship and tactical subgroup commanders will attend briefings in Gdynia, Poland, as crews play sports together and get to know each other. From June 9 to 19, the ships will rehearse a combination of combat and search and rescue operations. Then all will head for debriefing in Kiel, Germany, where the ships involved will traditionally feature in celebrations of the Kiel Week.

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