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Updated: September 8, 2009 23:45 IST

No missiles in ship, says Russia

Vladimir Radyuhin
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A Russian soldier escorts one of the eight suspected hijackers of cargo ship Arctic Sea at the Cape Verdean island of Sal on August 19. Photo: AFP
A Russian soldier escorts one of the eight suspected hijackers of cargo ship Arctic Sea at the Cape Verdean island of Sal on August 19. Photo: AFP

Three weeks after Russia recovered the Arctic Sea, a missing Russian-crewed ship, Russian officials stepped in to dispel media speculation that the vessel was carrying contraband missiles to Iran.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday described as “absolutely untrue” reports that the ship had S-300 missiles on board hidden in a cargo of timber.

The Arctic Sea, a 4,000-tonne Maltese-flagged freighter with a Russian crew of 15, disappeared at the end of July after being attacked in the Baltic Sea on the way from Finland to Algeria. Two weeks later a Russian warship recaptured the fugitive vessel in a NATO-aided operation near the Cape Verde archipelago.

Moscow said it arrested on board eight residents of Estonia and Latvia who had hijacked the ship and demanded a £1-million ransom.

The bizarre hijacking prompted speculation that ship was carrying arms to Iran and was intercepted by Mossad, which used proxies to “hijack” the vessel.

A spokesman for the Russian Investigation Committee said on Tuesday that an initial inspection of the Arctic Sea did not reveal any secret cargo.

The Russian Foreign Minister promised a “transparent” investigation in which Maltese officials would also be invited to take part when the Arctic Sea reaches the Russian port of Novorossiysk in the Black Sea next week.

Mystery continues

Despite Moscow’s official denial of any arms smuggling by the Arctic Sea, mystery continues to shroud the incident.

A Russian journalist who was the first to suggest that the ship may have been carrying illegal weapons has fled Russia claiming he was told to leave or face arrest. The Russian crew of the Arctic Sea have refused to discuss the hijacking even after they were allowed to return to their families.

Reports say Mossad intercepted arms for Iran

Russia says no secret cargo found onboard

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