August 20, 2009
Arctic Sea hijack suspects claim to be environmentalists
Eleven members of the crew of the Maltese-flag cargo ship Arctic Sea have arrived in Moscow along with eight suspected hijackers. Four members of the crew, including the captain, have remained with the ship. The Arctic sea is reportedly still some 260 miles from the Cape Verde islands, where it was intercepted by the Russian frigate Ladny following its apparent hijacking on July 24.
While the English-language RT TV channel covered the arrival of the detainees and crew members, coverage by Russia's Vesti TV of the detainees transfer from Cape Verde showed some of the suspects to have the heavy prison tattoos associated with Russian professional criminals.
Vesti reported the detainees told the Russian military that they were environmentalist and scientists who had been captured by mistake.
According to reports filed with the Finnish and Swedish police, the Arctic Sea was seized at gunpoint at 3 AM on July 24 in Swedish waters. The crew were beaten and tied up.
The Vesti report says the detainees claim they were merely taking shelter from a storm and had requested fuel from the Arctic Sea. They say they were "friends" of the crew. Vesti comments that the crew members were still bearing the marks of that friendship--bruising from plastic handcuffs and in one case a broken arm--when they boarded the plane for Russia.
If your Russian's up to it, here's the link to the Vesti story:
Contact with the ship was lost off Portugal on July 28. Russia's Ambassador to NATO today told Echo Moskvy radio that NATO assistance significantly facilitated the search and rescue of the ship. Ambassador Rogozin said NATO started providing Russia with reliable and timely information on the Arctic Sea's whereabouts on August 12, which helped the Russian Navy to plan and coordinate the efforts in the rescue of the ship.