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11 Oct, 2009 13:00

Arctic Sea: never ending saga

The ship that came to global attention after disappearing in mysterious circumstances is now in the Mediterranean and being refused permission to dock anywhere. Its crew is struggling to survive with little water.

The cargo ship is located east of Gibraltar with four sailors, who have remained on board since August with little to live on.

“Our husbands have spent seventy-five days on the ship, and we don’t know where it is and what’s to happen,” the captain’s wife, Elena Zaretskaya, told RT. “We get short phone calls or messages once a week. That’s how our husbands told us that they haven't enough water – they can only get it for five minutes a day.”

The Russian ministry of foreign affairs says the situation is complex.

"I would like to emphasize that the actions and statements of the Russian side were dictated by the conditions of a really difficult situation with the Arctic Sea. It happened so that many parties were involved in the situation, making it more complicated," says Andrey Nesterenko, a spokesman for Russia’s Foreign Ministry.

It has been over two months since the Arctic Sea was allegedly hijacked off the coast of Sweden.

The cargo was listed as timber, but there was much media speculation: with some reports suggesting it was carrying Russian missiles for Iran or Syria, and that other governments might have intervened.

It has put countries off from opening their ports and saving the four stranded seamen.

Russian investigators say they have found nothing illegal on board and are still working hard to bring the crew back home.

Malta, Spain, and Algeria have all refused to allow the Arctic Sea to dock.

"Let me remind you that the recipient of the cargo of wood on board the Arctic Sea is an Algerian company. Regarding this, we suggested that we should drag the ship at our own expense to the Algerian port of Bejaia to pass it on to the ship-owner," Nesterenko continued.

The ship was freed dramatically in mid-August by a Russian warship off the Cape Verde islands. Eleven crew and eight suspected pirates were flown to Moscow for questioning.

But the captain and the three other seamen were forced to stay on board, despite a replacement crew being ready to take over.

Their families have been told by Russian investigators that the men will return – but not when.

Viktoriya Shumik, the wife of senior engineer Igor Shumik, says she is in a terrible state, close to despair.

“I could feel it in his voice that things there are far from good,” the woman says.

Back in Russia, for the families of these men, it is not the mystery surrounding the Arctic Sea they are concerned about: they want to see their husbands and fathers home safely and as soon as possible.