Thursday, May 06, 2010

Russians Seize Hijacked Tanker, And Then Free Pirates?

Just when you think the Russians are non-PC enough to kick some pirate ass, they wuss out and let them go, with "no legal basis" for holding them.

No legal basis??! They're barbaric criminals who hijack ships!

What has happened to the world....

By Ludmila Danilova

Moscow - Russian forces seized a hijacked Russian oil tanker from Somali pirates and rescued its crew in a helicopter-backed operation in the Gulf of Aden on Thursday that killed one of the pirates, authorities said.

The 10 other pirates who captured the China-bound MV Moscow University with 23-member crew and a cargo of crude oil worth $52-million surrendered and were taken to a nearby warship.

Investigators initially announced plans to bring the pirates to Moscow for prosecution, but later backtracked, saying no final decision had been taken.

However, state-run news agency RIA Novosti quoted an unnamed defence ministry official as saying the pirates were disarmed and released as there was no legal basis to detain them. The defence ministry was unavailable for comment late on Thursday.

The rescue was a boost for the Kremlin, which has been seeking to revive Russia's naval muscle far from its shores despite limited resources.

President Dmitry Medvedev congratulated Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov in a televised meeting and ordered that all those involved receive medals for their part in the rescue.

"It was accurate, professional and quick," Medvedev said.

The pirates opened fire on a helicopter dispatched from Russia's Marshal Shaposhnikov warship early on Thursday morning, Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Alexei Kuznetsov said in televised comments.

When the Russians returned fire from a heavy calibre machine gun, the pirates surrendered by radio and three groups of special forces boarded the ship to detain them.

"Despite armed resistance from the pirates, we freed all the crew members," Kuznetsov said. He said one pirate was killed and some of the 10 who were captured were injured.

The crew survived the 20-hour siege by hiding in a safe room that was inaccessible to the hijackers, a spokesperson for the tanker's owner, Novorossiysk Shipping Company, said.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said the tanker would most likely continue on its planned voyage to China.

Somali pirates have extorted tens of millions of dollars in ransoms from shipowners and insurers and are still able to seize ships despite the presence of an international fleet of warships in the busy shipping lanes linking Europe with Asia.

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