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Russian investigators say no compromising cargo on board Arctic Sea

RIA Novosti

17:24 19/09/2009 MOSCOW, September 19 (RIA Novosti) - Investigators have not found any 'compromising' cargo on board the Arctic Sea vessel, a spokesman for the Investigative Committee of the Russian Prosecutor General's Office said on Saturday.

The Maltese-flagged cargo vessel was expected to arrive in the Spanish port of Las Palmas late on Friday to be handed over to its owner in the presence of Maltese officials. However, Spanish authorities banned the ship from calling at the port without giving any explanation. The ship is currently anchored off Spain's Canary Islands.

"It was established that the vessel carried timber only. No cargo that could compromise Russia has been found on board," Vladimir Markin said.

The media has speculated that the ship could have been involved in a state-sponsored arms trafficking operation, including suggestions that Russia attempted to deliver missiles for S-300 air defense systems to Iran or Syria. The speculation was dismissed by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier this month.

Markin said Russian investigators left the ship on Saturday and should fly back to Russia later in the day. The things, including a boat, belonging to suspected pirates and hijackers were seized, he said.

The Russian-crewed vessel, officially carrying lumber from Russia to Algeria, was reportedly boarded by a group of eight men on July 24. Officials later said it had disappeared in the Atlantic. It was freed off Cape Verde on August 16 by a Russian warship.

Malta refused to take part in the handover of the ship on Thursday.

The investigation is ongoing.


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