Russia says Arctic Sea ship was monitored throughout hijacking

The Arctic Sea cargo ship, earlier reported to have gone missing before being found with hijackers on board, was constantly monitored throughout the incident, RIA-Novosti quoted Russia's Foreign Ministry as saying on Tuesday evening.

Russian officials earlier said that the freighter loaded with timber was "found" on August 17 and freed from hijackers by the Ladny missile frigate a few hundred kilometers from Cape Verde.

However, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday evening: "Of course this bulk freighter with deadweight of 7,000 tons was never lost. Its movements were monitored, and its coordinates were provided by several sources, including our foreign partners."

The Arctic Sea, which had 15 Russian crewmembers, is currently being towed to the Russian port of Novorossiisk on the Black Sea. Four of the crew remain on board, while the other 11 have been flown to Moscow for questioning. Eight alleged hijackers, found on board when the freighter was released, have been arrested and are face piracy charges.

The ministry said several questions remain unanswered in the incident, for example whether the reported seizure of the freighter on July 24 was preceded by another attack, and whether there were other hijackers involved.

Russia's top investigators had earlier suggested the ship was carrying not only timber, but the Foreign Ministry said the vessel has now been searched, and that no suspicious cargo has been found.

"The preliminary search of the ship did not reveal the presence of suspicious cargo on board. A more thorough search will be conducted at one of the ports on the way to Russia," the statement said.

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