Pirates Versus Putin

******************************UPDATE******************************

The pirates lose.

Russian special forces storm oil tanker from helicopter, free crew and arrest Somali pirates

Russian special forces rappelled onto a disabled oil tanker taken over by Somali pirates and freed 23 Russian sailors early Thursday, the commander of the EU Naval Force said. Ten pirates were arrested and one was killed.

The raid on the Liberian-flagged ship Moscow University came 24 hours after pirates had taken the ship over and the crew locked itself in a safe room. The vessel is carrying 86,000 tons of crude oil worth about $50 million.

The special forces had been aboard the Russian anti-submarine destroyer Marshal Shaposhnikov, which rushed to the scene after Wednesday’s seajacking. A helicopter was dispatched to investigate and was fired on by the pirates, EU Naval Force said. The Russian warship returned fire on the pirates, it said.

Special forces troops on the helicopter rappelled down to the Moscow University, Rear Adm. Jan Thornqvist, force commander of the EU Naval Force, told an Associated Press reporter aboard the warship Carlskrona, which on Thursday was 500 miles (800 kilometers) west of Thursday’s rescue and was sailing toward Somali waters.

Ten pirates were detained and one pirate was killed, the Russian state news agency ITAR-Tass cited Vladimir Markin as saying. Markin is the spokesman for Russia’s Investigative Committee. There are wounded pirates, he said without giving details.

Russian officials were preparing for the pirates to be delivered to Moscow to face criminal charges, Markin said.

See also:
Russian warship wins shootout with Somali pirates, rescues sailors
Russian marines free captured tanker off Somalia
Russian special forces storm oil tanker, free ship
Russian Destroyer Frees Hijacked Oil Tanker
Russian navy retakes oil tanker
Hijacked Russian oil tanker freed off Yemeni coast, crew unhurt

What’d I say? The Russians play for keeps.

/the pirates should have taken my advice and gotten the hell out of Dodge while they still had the chance

******************************END UPDATE******************************

I’m guessing this probably won’t end well for the pirates. The Russians aren’t particularly known for their sense of humor.

Somali pirates seize Russian tanker in Gulf of Aden

Somali pirates on Wednesday attacked and seized the Russian tanker Moskovsky Universitet in the Gulf of Aden, a Navy source said.

He earlier said the incident had occurred around 8.00 a.m. Moscow time [04:00 GMT], when the tanker was en route from the Red Sea to China. The pirates attacked the Russian vessel 350 miles east of the Gulf of Aden. There are 23 people on board, all of them Russian citizens.

He added that a Russian warship, the RFS Marshal Shaposhnikov, was on its way to help the tanker but would be unable to reach it until Wednesday night, most likely “between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. on Thursday.”

The captain of the tanker, which is carrying 86,000 tons of crude oil, managed to get in touch with the Russian warship by phone and call for help.

The captain said two small boats with armed men on board had made an attempt to approach the tanker and fired automatic weapons.

The Liberian-flagged tanker exercised a series of maneuvers to avoid seizure but subsequently succumbed.

The Navy source did not say exactly where the Pacific Fleet’s Udaloy-class guided-missile destroyer Marshal Shaposhnikov was at the moment.

The Marshal Shaposhnikov, a large anti-submarine ship, has two helicopters and an infantry unit on board.

See also:
Somali Pirates Seize State-Owned Tanker
Pirates hijack Russian tanker
Russia sends warship after tanker is hijacked by Somali pirates
Somali pirates hijack Russian China-bound oil tanker
Warship ordered to chase Somali pirates after Russian tanker is hijacked
Somali pirates board oil tanker; warship en route
Somali Pirates Hijack Russian Oil Tanker
Somali pirates seize Russian tanker
Russia confirms oil tanker captured by Somali pirates
Somali pirates hijack Russian oil tanker: EU navy
Udaloy class destroyer

/if I were the pirates, I’d be abandoning ship before the Marshal Shaposhnikov gets there, it doesn’t look too friendly

Best Explanation Yet, But Is It The Truth?

‘Arctic Sea’ was carrying illegal arms, says general

A general close to the investigation into the mysterious voyage of the Arctic Sea has told a Russian newspaper that he suspected the ship was carrying a secret cargo of illegal weapons, as many conspiracy theorists have suggested.

The newspaper, Komsomolskaya Pravda, interviewed what it described as a senior general in the Russian Navy who had been close to the investigation. The general said that he knew far more than he could say openly at this stage, but his testimony, if genuine, represents the first concrete information to come out of the investigation, which has been shrouded in mystery.

He said the theory that the ship might have been carrying drugs was excluded from the beginning, but that the investigation had focussed on a possible weapons shipment, in particular S-300 or X-55 missiles bound for Iran, and sold by a “weapons mafia” involving top Russian officials but operating outside of the law.

The efforts which Russia put into recovering a ship that had a stated cargo worth less than £1m, has led many to suspect that there may have been a secret, embarrassing cargo.

“I think that if this journey had been successful, Russia could have ended up in a huge international scandal,” he said. “I think that for this reason the order was given from the top to start this huge naval operation. We caught the boat to make sure we didn’t end up in a nasty situation.”

See also:
Pirated ship ‘had missile cargo’
‘Ghost Ship’ Stash
Hidden in Plain View
The truth is adrift with the Arctic Sea
Russian press allege Mossad connection to ‘Arctic Sea’
Did Mossad hijack Russian ship to stop Iran arms shipment?
Op-ed hints Mossad snatched Russian ship
S-300PMU
S-300
X-55 Long Range Cruise Missile
Raduga Kh-55
New Day, New Story

Well, the illegal smuggling of sophisticated Russian missiles destined for Iran would certainly explain why the Mossad might be interested in the cargo and why the Russians would mount such a large naval operation to recover the ship. It certainly makes infinitely more sense than believing all this fuss unfolded over a wayward shipment of lumber. But is it the whole or even partial truth, who the hell knows?

/with the Russians and, allegedly, the Mossad involved, we may never get a straight answer that resembles the actual truth

New Day, New Story

Yesterday, there weren’t any hijackers, but today there are suddenly eight. Go figure.

Russia Detains Eight in Hijacking of Ship Arctic Sea (Update1)

Russia’s navy detained eight suspected hijackers of the Maltese-flagged freighter Arctic Sea after a 25-day odyssey that ended in the Cape Verde islands off west Africa, Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said.

The eight hijackers are citizens of Estonia, Latvia and Russia, Serdyukov told President Dmitry Medvedev today in comments published 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 to shut down the ship’s navigational equipment, he said. The freighter had been en route from Finland to Algeria.

Russia learned of the Arctic Sea’s location “several days ago” and kept that information secret to give its warship, the Ladny, time to navigate the Cape Verde archipelago and catch the hijackers by surprise, 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.

. . .

Defense Ministry spokesman Alexei Kuznetsov said by phone in Moscow today that he couldn’t confirm or deny the Rossiyskaya Gazeta report that NATO cooperated in the investigation. He said the crew was aboard the warship Ladny near Cape Verde and was being questioned. Carmen Romero, a spokeswoman for NATO in Brussels, couldn’t be reached for comment immediately.

The freighter was en route from Finland to Algeria with a cargo of 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 for Helsinki-based Rets, said by phone today. Most of the lumber came from other companies, he said.

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.

See also:
Russia says Arctic Sea was hijacked, suspects arrested
Eight Are Arrested Over Arctic Sea Hijacking
Russia Says It Holds Hijackers of Cargo Ship
Russia holds eight after recovering missing ship Arctic Sea
Crew of Arctic Sea under interrogation in hopes of yielding answers to mystery
Arctic Sea hijackers ‘threatened to kill crew, sink ship’
Hijackers of Ship Arctic Sea Demanded $1.5 Million From Insurer
Ship location kept quiet to protect hijacked crew
Doubts cast on Russia’s ‘rescue’ of Arctic Sea
Look Ma, No Hijackers

So, eight criminals hijack an 18 year old freighter laden with a cargo of $1.8 million worth of wood and demand $1.5 million in ransom? It hardly seems worth the effort, certainly no self-respecting Somali pirate would sink that low.

/sorry, I’m still not buying it, there’s got to be more to this story that’s not being made public yet

Look Ma, No Hijackers

Mystery as missing cargo ship Arctic Sea found without hijackers

The ship baffled maritime authorities when it disappeared shortly after being sailed through the English Channel last month, raising the prospect of the first act of piracy in European waters for hundreds of years.

Anatoly Serdyukov, the Russian defence minister, said that the 15 crew members were safe after they were taken on board a naval frigate “300 miles off the Cape Verde islands”.

“They are being questioned to clarify all the circumstances of the disappearance. We will explain what happened with it, why communications with it were lost, why it changed its itinerary.”

Russian authorities did not provide information on the precise circumstances of the ship’s interception near Cape Verde, about 2,500 miles away from the vessel’s intended location.

The naval operation, which took place on Sunday night, followed a weekend of joint Russia-Nato surveillance of the “hijacked” Maltese-flagged ship culminating in its detention by the Russian anti-submarine frigate, the Ladny.

Malta’s Maritime Authority said it would be “using diplomatic, security service, flag administration, military and police channels” to find out more about what had happened.

“The MV Arctic Sea is under the control of the Russian military forces. Further clarifications into the case are being sought,” said a spokesman.

The freighter’s disappearance on the high seas for 19 days, in spite of 21st century satellite and navigation tracking technology, has been compared to the plot of a spy thriller by John Le Carre.

European and Russian maritime experts had speculated that that the ship’s hijacking was not connected with an official manifest of timber and could be linked to an illegal cargo, such as arms, drugs or even nuclear materials, carried without the knowledge of crew or the ship’s owners.

The vessel left the Finnish port of Pietarsaari on July 23 with a £1.2 million cargo of timber for scheduled unloading on Aug 4 at Bejaia, Algeria.

But the Arctic Sea’s voyage was then plunged into mystery after crew reported a boarding in Swedish waters on July 24 by 10 armed English-speaking men masquerading as anti-narcotics police officers.

According to crew members, the intruders held them hostage for 12 hours, subjected them to violent questioning and “went through the ship with a fine-tooth comb”.

After proceeding through the English Channel on July 28, a final signal from the vessel’s automatic identification system (AIS) two days later placed the “pirate” ship 50 miles south of Penzance.

According to European Union officials a second attack was then reported off the Portuguese coast and the ship’s AIS system was switched off.

Last week, Russian navy vessels, including the Ladny and two nuclear submarines, were mobilised following reports of the vessel’s hijacking.

The Daily Telegraph understands the whereabouts of the 4000 ton dry-cargo freighter had been established last Thursday as the missing vessel headed south, out of Europe’s Atlantic waters towards the west African coast.

The Arctic Sea was then spotted by coastguards on Aug 14 in international waters 500 miles off the West African island archipelago of Cape Verde and the vessel was placed under ongoing surveillance by Russian and Nato military.

Finnish police investigators confirmed at the weekend that a ransom demand, said to be around £900,000, had been received by the Arctic Sea’s Russian owners.

Viktor Matveyev, director of the ship’s Russian-owned operator Oy Solchart, said: “We are all incredibly happy. Now the big work starts to find out what happened.”

See also:
Russia finds Arctic Sea ship, ‘debriefing’ crew
Russia Finds Missing Ship Arctic Sea, Defense Minister Says
Missing cargo ship Arctic Sea found off Cape Verde
Russian Navy finds Arctic Sea
Arctic Sea owner: Happy crew is “safe and all alive” (Extra)
Arctic Sea found off Cape Verde
Where Oh Where Has The Arctic Sea Gone, Where Oh Where Can It Be?
Thar She Blows?
The Plot Thickems

Well, it’s a good thing that the crew is safe and the recovery of the Arctic Sea was peaceful. However, there are still many more questions than answers. Hopefully, we’ll eventually find out the truth of what happened.

Until then, a couple of questions immediately leap to mind. Since there were no hijackers aboard, what exactly was the crew doing sailing the Arctic Sea off the coast of West Africa and why didn’t they turn on their identification beacon or otherwise communicate their location and situation to anyone?

/I’m betting that the whole “hijacking” scenario was a hoax, part of an elaborate scam for money, and the crew was in on it

Where Oh Where Has The Arctic Sea Gone, Where Oh Where Can It Be?

What Happened to the Missing Ship ‘Arctic Sea’?

Russia’s president has ordered the Russian Navy to take part in the search for the cargo ship “Arctic Sea.” Manned by a Russian crew, the ship vanished two weeks ago off the coast of southern Europe.

President Dmitry Medvedev told Secretary of Defense Anatoly Serdyukov to “take all necessary measures to establish the whereabouts and to find the missing ship ‘Arctic Sea’ with a Russian crew on board, as well as to free [the ship’s crew], should such a need arise,” the Kremlin told Interfax on Wednesday.

The Arctic Sea is a 5,000-ton cargo ship that was carrying timber worth approximately $1.6 million from Finland to Algeria. It left port July 23, and the next morning was reportedly boarded in Swedish waters in the Baltic Sea by a band of masked hijackers in a high-speed rubber boat, who identified themselves as anti-drug police. The 15-man crew was tied up while the hijackers searched the ship.

After 12 hours, they apparently disembarked and sped away, breaking radio and other communications gear but without taking anything of value, the crew reported to the Maltese Maritime Authority, where the ship is registered. Instead of making port after the incident, the ship continued on its trip.

The ship was last heard from July 28, when it radioed the Dover, England, Coast Guard because it was approaching the English Channel. In a call the Coast Guard called routine, the ship said that it was en route to the Algerian port of Bejaia, where it was due to arrive Aug. 4. The last time its position was recorded by tracking equipment was July 30, when it was off the coast of the northern French town of Brest. On Aug. 2, the ship was spotted by Portuguese coastal patrol planes.

But the next day, Aug. 3, Interpol told the Dover Coast Guard that the ship had been hijacked more than a week before and asked the Coast Guard to stay vigilant. By that point, however, the ship had passed through the English Channel and had fallen off the radar.

See also:
Secret cargo theory as hunt for missing vessel Arctic Sea goes on
Hijacked Arctic Sea feared to be carrying secret cargo of drugs
Missing ship may have secret cargo
Russian Navy Joins Search for Freighter
Hunt Intensifies for Missing Cargo Ship
Ship disappears after sail through English Channel
Piracy fears surround Arctic Sea disappearance
Arctic Sea’s unstable sisters
MV Arctic Sea

Unless it sank, I find it hard to believe, in the age of satelites, that they can’t find a 300 ft. ship in the Atlantic. This whole episode is well within the realm of the bizzarre. The Russians cannot be happy about what’s happening. The resolution of this mystery should prove to be quite interesting, if we ever find out for sure.

/given the seemingly professional nature of the presumed piracy, I think we can safely say that whatever cargo the Arctic Sea was transporting, it sure as hell wasn’t timber