Ship's crew accused in vanishing mystery

Aug. 27, 2009 at 6:32 PM

MOSCOW, Aug. 27 (UPI) -- Most of the crew of the Maltese-flagged ship The Arctic Sea were arraigned for piracy and kidnapping, Russian special investigators in Moscow said Thursday.

Media reports have speculated on theories of piracy and kidnapping as a plot to deflect attention from a possible arms-smuggling conspiracy, RIA Novosti reported.

The ship, carrying a load of lumber bound from Finland for Algeria, had disappeared for two weeks in the Atlantic Ocean and was found by a Russian war vessel off Cape Verde Aug. 17. The ship was freed non-violently.

Moscow's Basmanny District Court last Friday kept in custody eight unemployed Estonian men from Estonia in connection with the case.

Media musings on the matter include a Moscow columnist conjecturing the ship was covertly shipping weapons to rogue states such as Iran or Syria, and that the Arctic Sea was providing cover for a smaller ship sailing near the eastern coast of Sweden, the newspaper reported.

"We do not rule out that (the ship) may have carried more than just sawn timber," Alexander Bastrykin, head of the Investigations Committee at the Russian Prosecutor General's Office, said Wednesday.

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