Wednesday, August 19, 2009

New Questions About Maltese Mystery Ship

The world was shocked when the Arctic Sea, a Maltese ship owned by a Finnish company and manned by a Russian crew vanished under suspicious circumstances on July 24. Russian authorities launched a determined search for the ship, which was supposedly bound for Algeria with $1.3 million worth of lumber.

According to News, there is growing suspicion that the hijacking might not have even taken place. News reports as follows.

"Russia on Tuesday arrested eight people on suspicion of hijacking the Arctic Sea off the Swedish coast and sailing it to the Atlantic Ocean, ending weeks of silence about the fate of a ship which has intrigued European maritime authorities.

Limited information from Russian officials has failed to satisfy skeptics who voiced doubts about whether the piracy actually took place or was a convenient cover story to conceal a possible secret cargo of arms or nuclear material."

The Malta Maritime authority deepened the mystery of the entire puzzling incident by saying that the ship "never really disappeared". Russian authorities are maintaining the official story that the guilty parties were nationals of Russia, Latvia and Estonia.

The Moscow News, an English language Russian paper has cited a number of questionable elements to the story, including a smaller ship that was traveling with the "Arctic Sea". Voice Of America reports as follows on the suspicions of Yulia Latynina, a Russian political analyst and opposition figure.

"Some observers, including Russian political analyst Yulia Latynina, say that many elements surrounding the ship's disappearance, including initial speculation that it had been seized by pirates, do not add up.

Latynina says she believes the incident was neither a pirate attack nor involved ordinary cargo, but rather involved some kind of "highly illegal cargo." She says the cargo was possibly nuclear components or, more likely, weapons being sold to a Middle Eastern country.

Latynina says she thinks there was a disagreement between the various people involved, and does not rule out the involvement of "special services."

Particularly disturbing is her report that two weeks worth of repair work while docked in Kaliningrad involved the removal of the ship's bulkhead so that something very large could be loaded on the ship.

News Daily concludes its article with its Latynina's blunt assessment.

"To put it plainly: The Arctic Sea was carrying some sort of anti-aircraft or nuclear contraption intended for a nice, peaceful country like Syria, and they were caught with it,"

It seems highly unlikely that an act of piracy in fact occurred. In reviewing the mysterious path of the "Arctic Sea", new questions present themselves.

Was the ship's alleged disappearance the result of its secret cargo being interdicted? Or was the alleged piracy all a part of an elaborate hoax to obscure the uncharted transfer of highly illegal arms or even nuclear material to a rogue state? Someone could "hijack" a shipment and take it through uncharted channels. If contraband were shipped under cover in a legal shipment, there would be a paper trail. If Russia was in on some kind of plot from the beginning, it is highly unlikely that they will provide candid answers. Any satisfaction of the public's curiosity is likely to come from the intelligence services of other nations. Considered in conjunction with attack submarines off of America's east coast, it seems as though the intrigues of America's cold war with Russia are still very much with us. As dead as communism may be, reports that the death of the cold war may be quite premature.

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