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Russian FM: No Missiles on Arctic Sea

By VOA News
08 September 2009

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has rejected speculation that a freighter, hijacked in the Arctic Sea in July, might have carried sophisticated Russian aircraft missiles bound for Iran.

Lavrov Tuesday denied reports that the Russian-crewed ship was carrying S-300 missiles, as The Times of London reported Sunday. Lavrov said an investigation into the hijacking of the vessel is due soon, and that it will be transparent.

Russian officials have said no illicit cargo was found on the ship, which was hijacked by pirates in the Baltic Sea in late July. Officials say the Maltese-registered cargo vessel was carrying timber from Finland to Algeria.

Maritime officials said radar and radio contact with the vessel were lost July 28 off the coast of Portugal.

Russian warships overtook the freighter August 16 off the Atlantic coast of Africa and arrested eight suspected pirates.

Since then, numerous questions about the ship's nearly month-long disappearance remain unanswered, fueling speculation it may have been carrying illicit cargo.

European shipping experts have questioned why hijackers would take such risks over a relatively low-value cargo, and why pirates would risk seizing a ship in the busy shipping lanes of the Atlantic or the Baltic Sea.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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