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Maritime Community Asks Russia Not To Use Force Against Somali Pirates
NAIROBI , October 1, 2008 – The international maritime community has asked Russia not to use force to free the Ukrainian ship Faina seized by pirates in Somalia .
Andrew Mwangura, head of East Africa Seafarers' Assistance Programme, said on Wednesday that the use of force might put the lives of people at risk.
The editor-in-chief of the Sovfracht Maritime Bulletin Internet edition, Mikhail Voitenko, also opposes the use of force in such situations.
The seized ship is owned by an Israeli citizen, Vadim Alperin, the Ukrainian parliament's ombudsman Nina Karpacheva said on Wednesday.
She said she had no contact with the ship owner. “It is the duty of the relevant governmental agencies to establish contact with him,” she told a briefing that was also attended by the wives and relatives of the captured sailors.
Karpacheva believes that the talks should also involve representatives of the Ukrainian government, the company Ukrspetsexport, which is the seller of the arms aboard the ship, and the company that recruited the crew.
She said the Somali pirates demand 20 million U.S. dollars as a fine for the transportation of arms in the country's waters. “According to the pirates, this is not a ransom but a fine for the transportation of arms in Somalia 's waters, for unauthorized and unsanctioned fishing and for the humanitarian catastrophe in Somalia ,” Karpacheva said.
She also spoke against the use of force to free the ship and the crew. “This issue should not even be discussed under such circumstances. I do not rule out that Kenya may be considering using force. The only solution is a ransom. There is no alternative,” Karpacheva said.
Meanwhile, the Somali government has given the go-ahead for the use of force against the pirates who have seized the Ukrainian ship.
Somali Foreign Ministry Executive Director Mohamed Jama Ali said any foreign state may use force in order to free a ship with arms aboard after preliminary consultations with the Somali authorities.
The ship is carrying military equipment and munitions, including 33 T-72 tanks, anti-aircraft systems, grenade launchers and ammunition.
The vessel, attacked by pirates on September 25, is currently surrounded by U.S. military ships that are watching it to make sure that the pirates do not unload the weapons to the coast.
The British Times reported earlier this week that the Somali pirates were making preparations for the transfer of grenade launchers and anti-aircraft systems from the seized Ukrainian ship to the coast.
This is happening virtually in front of the crew of the U.S. destroyer staying in view of the Faina, the newspaper said.
It quoted witnesses as saying that the U.S. crew use loudspeakers to warn the pirates against proceeding with their plans.
Military and diplomatic sources in Nairobi say that the arms aboard the Faina might have been intended for South Sudan, not for Kenya .
The situation is quite complicated. The pirates have said that, according to the documents, the arms aboard the Ukrainian ship are intended for South Sudan , Mwangura said earlier.
The pirates are threatening to release all information to the press if their demand for a 20 million U.S. dollar ransom is not met shortly.
According to Mwangura, two shipments of military-technical equipment have already been delivered to South Sudan . Meanwhile, there is an arms embargo in Sudan , including in its southern regions.
Kenyan authorities have denied such statements and said they were wrong. Tanks and other military equipment are intended solely for the Kenyan army, Kenyan government spokesman Alfred Mutua said on Sunday, adding that Kenyan authorities were not conducting negotiations with the pirates.
He said the Kenyan government was closely watching the situation and maintained constant contact with the relevant international organizations and security services of the interested countries but would not interfere since the ship had not reached the port of Mombassa and was seized in international waters, which means that the ship owner is fully responsible for the insure cargo.
Kenyan government spokesman Alfred Mutua said on Friday that the ship was carrying tanks, grenade-launchers, and other weaponry for the Kenyan Armed Forces.
He indicated that the Kenyans had officially purchased the weaponry in Ukraine in full compliance with laws effective in both countries.
The Sudan People's Liberation Army also said they had not bought any arms from Ukraine .
The Faina has a crew of 17 Ukrainians, three Russians and a Latvian. The Faina flying the Belize flag was en route from Oktyabrsk in the Ukrainian Nikolayev region to the Kenyan Mombassa. The vessel was moving by a recommended route, rather far from the Somali coast.
The Somali pirates demanded a 35-million-dollar ransom for freeing the Ukrainian vessel but then lowered the ransom to 20 million U.S. dollars.
It is relatively calm aboard the Faina, and it has been reported that negotiations between the ship owner and the pirates are underway with the participation of a third party that remains unknown, the Sovfracht Maritime Bulletin reported on Wednesday.
“The pirates are concerned about Ukraine 's ability to pay the demanded amount and this is what they are arguing about,” the bulletin said.
“Radically-minded pirates demand negotiations to a ‘victorious end' and maximum ransom, while moderate ones insist on a minimum sum that may be raised and paid as soon as possible,” the bulletin said.
“The pirates are also worried by the Russian warship Neustrashimy. It' s a dark horse that no one knows what to expect of. It seems that the Americans are not going to use force and if the arms, including tanks, are unloaded, they will be able to destroy them in the country,” the report said.
The Neustrashimy /Fearless/ of the Baltic Fleet en route to Somalia is crossing the Atlantic towards the Gibraltar , the Russian Navy Commander-in-Chief's aide, Captain First Class Igor Dygalo said earlier in the day.
“The ship is now southwest of the Bay of Biscay ,” he said.
“According to unverified and fragmentary reports, the pirates seized another ship belonging to a Norwegian owner in the Gulf of Aden today,” the bulletin said.