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30 Nov, 2008 10:17

Pirates agree to free Ukrainian ship

Somali pirates say they have reached a deal to release an arms-laden Ukrainian ship seized two months ago, France-Presse reports. The Somalis are believed to have finalized a ransom fee and are now working on details for their safe return to land.

Editor-in-chief of the Maritime Bulletin Sovfracht internet portal Mikhail Voytenko believes the vessel could be set free next week.  

He said the issue of delivering the ransom and releasing the ship may be complicated by the pirates’ concerns to secure their own safety and avoid capture.

Voytenko couldn’t comment on the ransom fee agreed but said he believed it to be reasonable.

The pirates originally demanded $US 22 million but later reduced it to $US 8 million and then to $US 3 million.

Neither Russia’s Embassy in Kenya nor Ukraine’s Interior Ministry have confirmed the information yet.

When hijacked, the Faina was carrying large amounts of weaponry, including 33 T-72 tanks. It was manned by 21 crew – 17 Ukrainians, three Russians and a Latvian.

Its captain Vladimir Kolobkov died of a heart attack soon after the capture.

Meanwhile, the captain of the Russian frigate Neustrashimy (Fearless), patrolling the waters in the Gulf of Aden, says its presence is succeeding in scaring off pirate ships which have plagued merchant vessels.

But, he says, this won't solve the problem permanently.