Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Russia admits mystery ship may have had suspect cargo

AFP/Lehtikuva/File – This 2008 photo shows the Arctic Sea cargo ship off the caost of Kotka, southern Finland. Top Russian …

MOSCOW (AFP) – Top Russian officials admitted Wednesday that a cargo ship hijacked under murky circumstances in the Baltic Sea may have been carrying a suspicious cargo, after initially playing down such reports.

Speculation has been raging that the Arctic Sea -- a ship that was seized by pirates near Sweden last month and vanished for weeks before being recaptured by the Russian navy -- may have held weapons or even nuclear materials.

The Maltese-flagged ship with a crew of 15 Russian sailors was officially heading to Algeria with a cargo of timber.

But Moscow's top investigator, Alexander Bastrykin, cast doubt on that in a newspaper interview.

"We do not rule out the possibility that the Arctic Sea transported something other than wood," Bastrykin told the official government daily Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

"This is why we detained the crew, as we must figure out if any one of them was involved in those events," added Bastrykin, who heads the investigative committee of Russian prosecutors.

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