Consensus Building

As the dust continues to settle, a more consistent narrative is taking shape and setting up.

Missing channel pirate ship carried Russian arms for Iran

A CARGO ship that vanished in the Channel was carrying arms to Iran and was being tracked by Mossad, the Israeli security service, according to sources in both Russia and Israel.

The Arctic Sea, officially carrying a cargo of timber worth £1.3m, disappeared en route from Finland to Algeria on July 24. It was recovered off west Africa on August 17 when eight alleged hijackers were arrested. The Kremlin has consistently denied that the vessel was carrying a secret cargo. It claims the ship was hijacked by criminals who demanded a £1m ransom.

The official version was challenged by sources in Tel Aviv and Moscow who claimed the ship had been loaded with S-300 missiles, Russia’s most advanced anti-aircraft weapon, while undergoing repairs in the Russian port of Kaliningrad.

Mossad, which closely monitors arms supplies to Iran, is said to have tipped off the Russian government that the shipment had been sold by former military officers linked to the underworld.

The Kremlin then ordered a naval rescue mission which involved destroyers and submarines. Any evidence that the Kremlin had let advanced weaponry fall into the hands of criminals or be sold to Iran would be highly embarrassing, so military officials believe a “cover story” was concocted.

“The official version is ridiculous and was given to allow the Kremlin to save face,” said a Russian military source. “I’ve spoken to people close to the investigation and they’ve pretty much confirmed Mossad’s involvement. It’s laughable to believe all this fuss was over a load of timber. I’m not alone in believing that it was carrying weapons to Iran.”

The alleged hijackers, four Estonians, two Russians and two Latvians, will go on trial in Moscow. According to the Kremlin’s account, they boarded the Arctic Sea in the Baltic by claiming their inflatable craft was in trouble and then took over the ship at gunpoint.

Sources in Moscow suggested Mossad may have played a part in the alleged hijacking by setting up a criminal gang, who were unlikely to have known anything about a secret cargo. “The best way for the Israelis to block the cargo from reaching Iran would have been to create a lot of noise around the ship,” said a former army officer.

“Once the news of the hijack broke, the game was up for the arms dealers. The Russians had to act. That’s why I don’t rule out Mossad being behind the hijacking. It stopped the shipment and gave the Kremlin a way out so that it can now claim it mounted a brilliant rescue mission.”

According to Israeli military sources, Israel received intelligence that weapons bound for Iran were being loaded in Kaliningrad, a port notorious for gun runners. “A decision was then taken to inform the Kremlin,” said the source.

Had the S-300 missiles been delivered, Iran would have significantly strengthened its air defences. An Israeli air force source said that in the event of an attack on Iranian nuclear installations, such missiles could increase Israeli casualties by 50%.

. . .

Sources who suspect Mossad’s involvement point to a visit to Moscow by Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, the day after the Arctic Sea was rescued. Peres held four hours of private talks with Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president. Although the Israeli foreign ministry would not be drawn on the Arctic Sea, it confirmed that the two leaders had discussed the sale of Russian weapons to countries hostile to Israel. According to Israeli officials, Peres received verbal guarantees from the Russians that they would not sell advanced weapons systems to Iran or Syria.

“Clearly the Israelis played a role in the whole Arctic Sea saga,” said a Russian military source. “Peres used the incident as a bargaining chip over the issue of arms sales to Arab states, while Israel allowed the Kremlin a way out with its claims to have successfully foiled a piracy incident.”

See also:
Arctic Sea ghost ship ‘was carrying weapons to Iran’
Was Russia’s ‘Hijacked’ Ship Carrying Missiles to the Mideast?
‘Times’: Mossad staged Russian ship hijacking
Ship hijack mystery deepens despite arrests
Russian Military Says to Check Arctic Sea Cargo
Best Explanation Yet, But Is It The Truth?

Okay, so the Mossad gets wind of a plot by Russian mobsters to illegally smuggle and sell sophisticated S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Iran. Israel tips off the Russian government, but there’s a problem. If word of this illegal arms sale gets out, the Russian government will be highly embarrassed and lose face. So, a cover story unfolds whereby the Mossad arranges for a “hijacking” of the Arctic Sea which throws a monkey wrench in the mobsters’ plan and allows the Russian Navy time to swoop in and “rescue” the ship. It’s a win win for both Israel and Russia. The Israelis help stop the sale of advanced missiles to Iran, which would drastically complicate any future Israeli airstrikes against Iran and, instead of of looking like incompetent dumbasses, unable to keep track of the inventory of their most sophisticated weapons, the Russians come off looking like heroes, having recovered their ship and crew (and the missiles) from the “hijackers”. The Mossad dissapears and the Russians throw a thick security blanket over the whole episode and its aftermath, maintaining plausible deniability that there was ever any illegal attempt to smuggle and sell S-300 missiles in the first place.

/makes sense to me

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

Thar She Blows?

Missing ship ‘found’ off Africa

A missing merchant ship with 15 Russian crew members on board has been spotted off the coast of West Africa, unconfirmed reports say.

The Arctic Sea had last been sighted in the Bay of Biscay on 30 July.

Reports citing coastguards suggested it had been seen some 400 nautical miles north of the Cape Verde islands.

However amid continuing uncertainty, the Russian envoy in Cape Verde said he had contacted the military there and the sighting had not been confirmed.

Russian navy ships have been searching for the 4,000-tonne Maltese-flagged vessel, which had been carrying timber.

Observers have suggested the ship was hijacked, possibly because of a Russian commercial dispute.

Following the reported sighting, a spokesman for the French defence ministry told the BBC that the Arctic Sea was thought to be in international waters.

The spokesman said his information came from the Cape Verde coastguard, who said the ship was outside its jurisdiction.

However, the spokesman said there was a “high possibility” that the ship had been located. French intelligence officials also believe they have found the ship in the same area, he said.

The Russian ambassador to Cape Verde, Alexander Karpushin, told Associated Press news agency that a Russian frigate was heading to the area but had no information on the Arctic Sea’s location.

Russia’s RIA news agency later quoted Mr Karpushin as saying that confirmation that the Arctic Sea had been spotted “400 nautical miles north of the island of Santo Antao… did not prove to be true”.

Five Russian warships and other vessels have been searching the Atlantic for the vessel.

arctic sea

Just a wee bit off course.

See also:
Cargo ship near Cape Verde, official says
Missing ship Arctic Sea spotted in mid-Atlantic
France: missing cargo ship found near Cape Verde
Missing Ship Arctic Sea’s Owner Unaware of Sighting (Update3)
Missing ‘ghost ship’ Arctic Sea spotted off Cape Verde… but Russia says it’s a false alarm
Where Oh Where Has The Arctic Sea Gone, Where Oh Where Can It Be?

Of course, even if this is a legitimate sighting of the Arctic Sea, it still doesn’t explain why she’s sailing off the coasr of Africa, where she’s heading, or who’s in control of her.

/and so, the mystery continues . . .