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$1.5 million for hijacked Arctic Sea

$1.5 million for hijacked Arctic Sea
The hijackers demanded a ransom of $1.5 million from the ship?s insurer and threatened to shoot the crew and sink the vessel, the insurer said.

The hijackers demanded a ransom of $1.5 million from the ship"s insurer and threatened to shoot the crew and sink the vessel, the insurer said.

The hijackers of the Arctic Sea, the freighter found this week by Russia"s navy, demanded a ransom of $1.5 million from the ship"s insurer and threatened to shoot the crew and sink the vessel, the insurer said. Renaissance Insurance received a call on Aug. 3 from a person speaking English and claiming to be an intermediary for the hijackers, Vladimir Dushin, vice president for security at the Moscow-based insurer, said in a phone interview yesterday. ?They informed us the ship had been seized and threatened to sink it in five days if the amount wasn"t paid,? he said. The information was conveyed to Russian security officials. The Maltese-flagged ship was insured for $4 million, he said. The insurer helped communicate with the hijackers in the following days, he said. Russia detained eight suspected hijackers of the freighter after a 25-day odyssey that ended in the Cape Verde islands off west Africa, Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said yesterday. The eight hijackers are citizens of Estonia, Latvia and Russia, Serdyukov told President Dmitry Medvedev yesterday in comments on the Kremlin"s Web site. The armed group boarded the Arctic Sea on July 24, then forced the crew to change course toward Africa and turn off the navigational equipment, he said. The freighter had been en route from Finland to Algeria.

NATO Support Russia learned of the Arctic Sea"s location ?several days ago? and kept the information secret to give its warship, the Ladny, time to navigate the Cape Verde archipelago and surprise the hijackers, Rossiyskaya Gazeta, the government"s newspaper of record, reported. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization provided logistical support, the newspaper said. The disappearance of the Arctic Sea, owned by Helsinki- based Oy Solchart Management AB, sparked international speculation about its fate, including a reported sighting at the Spanish port of San Sebastian, a possible second attack off Portugal and a Finnish police report of a ransom demand.

Serdyukov said two days ago that Russian forces had found the Arctic Sea and were debriefing its 15 Russian crewmembers. Media including the Financial Times Deutschland reported sightings of the boat off Cape Verde on Aug. 14.

The freed members of the Russian crew haven"t contacted their families because the investigation is still under way, Russian state television station Vesti reported, citing Sergei Portenko, head of a Russian naval trade union. All 15 sailors were hired in Arkhangelsk near the White Sea, Vesti said.

Baltic Hijacking Estonia has received no information about the arrest of Estonian citizens in the incident, Foreign Minister Urmas Paet told reporters in Tallinn yesterday. Latvia also had no information about its citizens being detained, said Gints Serafinovics, a Foreign Ministry spokesman. Rossiyskaya Gazeta said the 98-meter (322-foot) Arctic Sea was hijacked in the Baltic Sea and steered to the Cape Verde area because the waters there are difficult for submarines to navigate. Russia initially planned to involve its submarine fleet, the newspaper said. Radio contact was lost when the freighter was off the coast of Portugal. NATO monitored the search and supplied information using its maritime tracking capabilities after receiving Russia"s request for assistance, a NATO official said by phone from Brussels. He declined to be identified, citing the alliance"s policy. The freighter was en route from Finland to Algeria with timber valued at 1.3 million euros ($1.8 million). The seller was Rets Timber, a joint venture between Europe"s largest papermaker, Stora Enso Oyj, and UPM-Kymmene Oyj, Kari Naumanen, chief executive officer at Helsinki-based Rets, said by phone yesterday. Most of the lumber came from other companies, he said.

No Contact Rets knows ?nothing more than what"s public,? and wasn"t contacted by the hijackers, Naumanen said. Finnish police didn"t contact Rets before going public with their investigation and haven"t shared internal information, he said. ?They have not put one single question to us.? The vessel will continue to Algeria to deliver its shipment, which is the property of three importers in Algeria, Naumanen said, declining to identify them. Rets has used Solchart for shipments to Algeria and Egypt for about 13 years, he said. Swedish police said on July 30 that the ship"s Finnish owner reported the vessel was boarded on July 24 in Swedish waters by a group that claimed to be police officers, and allegedly tied up the crew, then fled in an inflatable speedboat, the Associated Press reported.

Jurisdiction Unknown

Finnish investigators have been cooperating in the probe along with Malta and Sweden, said Superintendent Rabbe von Hertzen of the Finnish National Bureau of Investigation. ?At the moment the Russians have a part of the key to the investigation in their hands,? von Hertzen said by phone from Vantaa, Finland. ?The jurisdiction in which this case will be pursued is still not known.?

President Medvedev last week ordered Serdyukov to investigate the incident and to inform ?all interested parties,? including the media, of the results. Russia used satellites and naval vessels, led by the Ladny, to search for the freighter.


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