Arctic Sea: Freed Russian seamen questioned in remand prison
Russia flew the crew and hijackers of the hijacked freight vessel, the Arctic Sea, from Cape Verde to Moscow in three military planes on Thursday.
Russian television showed footage in which the crew briefly told about their ordeal.
One crew member said that the captain had been forced at gunpoint to cancel an earlier emergency call.
The crew members were not allowed to go home on Thursday: like the hijackers they were taken to the Lefortovo remand prison for questioning.
In Arkhangelsk the families of the crew waited for their loved ones with their eyes glued to their televisions. However, there was no indication of when the men would get home.
“I only know what was said on television. I hope that I can se my husband as soon as possible”, said mechanic Vladimir Kazhinin’s wife Olga to Helsingin Sanomat by telephone.
Vazir Fazylov, the father of seaman Dmitri Fazylov was surprised that his son was not even allowed to call home. “Nobody is saying anything. We’re just watching TV. This is stupid.”
The company Solchart Archangelsk is responsible for the operations of the Arctic Sea. The owner and CEO of the Finnish shipping company Solchart Management, Viktor Matvejev, is also from Archangelsk.
Solchart Archangelsk was not established until October last year. Before that, the Arctic Sea was operated by the Latvian company Aquaship.
On Thursday, Solchart Archangelsk director and shareholder Nikolai Karpenkov was making preparations in his office to send a new crew to the ship. However, he was still waiting for the go-ahead from the Russian Navy.
So why didn’t Karpenkov insist that the ship should have proceeded to the nearest port after the hijacking that took place in Swedish waters.
“The captain said that the ship was not damaged. We did not suspect that the hijackers were still on board.”
Karpenkov says that the communications equipment of the Arctic Sea was in working order until the ship had left the English Channel on August 1st. “Until then we followed the movements of the ship every day, and nothing appeared to be going wrong.”
On August 2nd the ship disappeared, and this is the point where Karpenkov clams up. “I will not comment on what happened after that.”
The task of reassuring the families of the crew members was left to Alexandr Krasnoshtan, chairman of the Archangelsk Seamen’s Union, who praised the initiative shown by the wives of the missing crew.
“When the ship disappeared, the wives were active and sent messages to the prosecutor. Thanks to the wives, the state apparatus started to work”, he says.
According to Krasnoshtan, Solchart Management and Sergei Zaretski, the captain of the Arctic Sea, have good reputations in maritime circles. Zaretski was left on the ship on Thursday, along with three members of the crew.
Russia said that the ship would proceed to Novorossiiski on the Black Sea for inspection.
Krasnoshtan says that it will be interesting to see who pays Stora Enso the insurance compensation for the cargo if the ship ends up in Russia.
“If the ship continues to Russia without stopping in Algeria first, it could be possible that suspicions of a secret cargo might be true.”
Previously in HS International Edition:
Russian Navy rescues Arctic Sea crew near Cape Verde (18.8.2009)
Missing Arctic Sea cargo vessel pursued by rumours and Russian Navy (14.8.2009)
Director of shipping line: Arctic Sea probably hijacked (13.8.2009)
Where are you, Arctic Sea? (9.8.2009)