MOSCOW, October 28 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian-crewed and Maltese-flagged vessel at the center of a mysterious hijacking case will arrive in Malta on Thursday, an unnamed diplomatic source said Wednesday.
"The Arctic Sea freighter is expected to arrive at La Valetta on October 29, whereupon negotiations on its handover will begin," the source said.
Maltese maritime authorities earlier said the Arctic Sea would be handed over before entering Malta's territorial waters.
The vessel disappeared in the Atlantic on July 24 while carrying a $2 million shipment of timber from Finland to Algeria and was intercepted off West Africa on August 17, when eight alleged hijackers were arrested.
The disappearance, which triggered a major international search effort, raised suspicions about a "secret cargo" of drugs or weapons carried by the ship. Russian authorities have denied the rumors, saying the vessel was hijacked by criminals who demanded a ransom.
Eleven of the 15 Russian crewmen have since been sent home. They were reportedly held for several weeks at an undisclosed location for questioning by Russian authorities and were subsequently released after being sworn to secrecy.
The captain and three crew members are still on board, along with Russian investigators.