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Page last updated at 18:50 GMT, Monday, 17 August 2009 19:50 UK

Russia finds missing cargo ship

Arctic Sea
The Arctic Sea went missing in mysterious circumstances last month

Russia says it has found a missing cargo vessel near the Cape Verde islands and retrieved its Russian crew.

Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said that the 15-member crew had been taken on board a Russian navy vessel. They were in good condition, he said.

The Finnish-owned Arctic Sea went off radar after passing through the English Channel with its cargo of timber.

Speculation over the cause of its disappearance had ranged from pirates to a mafia dispute to a commercial row.

The Arctic Sea was found at 0100 Monday (2100 GMT Sunday) 300 miles (480 km) off Cape Verde in the Atlantic Ocean, Tass news agency quoted Mr Serdyukov as telling Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

"The crew have been transferred to another ship. They are being interrogated now in order to find out what happened," Mr Serdyukov said.

TIMELINE: ARCTIC SEA
24 July: Crew say masked men board vessel, then leave
28 July: Ship contacts UK coastguard in English Channel
4 Aug: Ship fails to arrive in Algeria
17 Aug: Russia says ship found 300 miles off Cape Verde islands

The sailors were "alive, healthy and are not under armed guard", the agency quoted him as saying.

Malta's Maritime Security Committee confirmed that the vessel was in the hands of the Russian military. Further clarification in the case was being sought, it said in a statement.

Carrying timber reportedly worth $1.8m (£1.1m), the 4,000-tonne Maltese-flagged vessel sailed from Finland and had been scheduled to dock in the Algerian port of Bejaia on 4 August.

The crew reported having been boarded by up to 10 armed men as the ship sailed through the Baltic Sea on 24 July, but the intruders were reported to have left the vessel on an inflatable boat after 12 hours.

The last known contact with the crew was when the Arctic Sea reported to British maritime authorities in Dover as it passed through the English Channel.

It was then sighted in the Bay of Biscay on 30 July.

On Saturday, police in Finland said a ransom demand had been made, but emphasised that they could not confirm its authenticity.

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SEE ALSO
'Ransom demand' for missing ship
15 Aug 09 |  Europe
Mystery remains over cargo vessel
15 Aug 09 |  Europe
Missing ship 'found' off Africa
15 Aug 09 |  Europe



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