FRUKUS-2012, a joint naval exercise with vessels representing the nations France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, has ended with the arrival of the four ships in St. Petersburg. Rex Cox, captain of Her Majesty’s Ship “York,” along with Simon Airey, naval attach to the British Consulate, and Gareth Ward, British Consul-General in St. Petersburg, spoke to reporters about the journey of FRUKUS-2012.
York’s crew, upon arriving in St. Petersburg, has had the opportunity to spend an “excellent few days” in the city, according to Cox, enjoying the company of the crew of the Russian ship, “Ярослав Мудрый”. He said that his ship’s company has “very much enjoyed this beautiful city.” When asked what the crew liked most about St. Petersburg, he cited the “fantastic architecture.” He said, “You get a hint [of the architecture] as you come through the flood barrier, at great distance from the city, more than 500 meters away.”
Cox said his crew was hosted “most wonderfully” by the Russians, and that the British seamen have the opportunity now to explore St. Petersburg, a city that Cox considers “one of the great cities of the world,” which one “simply must visit in his life.” He expressed gratitude that his men were “so warmly hosted” by their Russian counterparts.
Cox said that 2012 is the 27th year of operation for the “York”, a destroyer. At the end of the year, it will be decommissioned, so this is its final mission. The many options for decommission include renovation into a naval museum, but, as yet, the fate of HMS “York” is undecided. The FRUKUS exercises will continue next year, but with another British ship.
Tuesday evening, a group from the Royal Navy went to see Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake at the Aurora Palace Ballet Hall. Cox said that in his opinion, despite probable disagreements of Muscovites, Petersburg is the “best place in the world” to see this ballet. Rex Cox said that it is a “tradition among seafarers” to “show respect” for a foreign country’s culture and traditions upon visiting.
Rex Cox spoke of the charity work that the seamen had done, visiting an orphanage in the city the previous day. The children, surprised the York had no onboard aquarium, presented the crew with a painting of an aquarium, which the crew has installed in the ship’s dining room. On Tuesday, the crew hosted a celebration dinner, inviting representatives of the nonprofit organization “Партнерство каждому ребенку” (Partnership for each child).
Cox also spoke of the general excitement throughout Great Britain right now because of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee at the beginning of June (75 years reigning as monarch) and because of the coming Olympic Games in London.
The FRUKUS exercises are yearly cooperative maneuvers between France, Russia, the U.K., and the U.S., targeted at strengthening relationship between the countries’ navies. Rex Cox stressed that the most important part of the FRUKUS exercises was that the crews of the four ships were able to “communicate together” and work as a “close unit,” despite the fact that they were speaking “4 languages, including American.”
The British, Russian, French, and U.S. ships practiced “close maneuvering in at 500 meters,” life gunnery firings, fire safety protocols, and damage control training exercises; they coordinated repelling air and small boat attacks. In addition to the U.K.’s “York” and Russia’s “Ярослав Мудрый” came the destroyer “De Grasse” from France and the guided missile cruiser “Normandy” from the U.S.
Consul General Gareth Ward said that the FRUKUS exercises are between 10 and 12 years old, and that, this year, they lasted about 10 days, starting at Baltiysk, Kaliningrad Oblast, and ended here at St. Petersburg. Their purpose, he said, is to “improve interoperability.” He stressed that the economic and political partnership between Russia and Great Britain will continue restrengthened. Captain Rex Cox said that FRUKUS serves to “strengthen the bonds that always exist between seafarers” of any nation.
Two British men on deck I spoke to said there was no such thing as political disagreements between crews of the different countries’ ships -- only camaraderie in speaking to men from another country who shared the same duties and responsibilities at sea. They asked me how to say “please” and “thank you” in Russian, telling me that it would be useful for their coming night at the bar and out in Petersburg.
Daniel Parker for Fontanka.ru