MOSCOW, August 19 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's Defense Ministry confirmed on Wednesday that the hijackers of the Arctic Sea did demand a ransom to release the cargo ship, which was found and freed by a Russian warship on Monday.
The exact circumstances surrounding the disappearance of the ship are unclear, but Finnish media reports last week said a ransom demand had been received, and Finnish police have since said hijackers wanted $1.5 million to release the ship.
"Crew members confirmed that hijackers issued a ransom demand" and threatened to blow up the ship if it was not paid, a ministry spokesman said.
He also said crew members have confirmed that the hijackers were armed, but ditched their weapons when a Russian warship, the Ladny, ordered the cargo vessel to stop.
"Searches on board the Arctic Sea turned up a high-speed inflatable boat, tools to help climb aboard the vessel, and explosives," he said.
Russia's defense minister said on Tuesday that the Ladny frigate had freed the Arctic Sea cargo ship in the Atlantic without firing a single shot and eight suspected hijackers had been detained.
The Arctic Sea vessel was located 480 kilometers (300 miles) off Cape Verde. In addition to the 15-person crew, there were eight unidentified people on board.
Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said a speed boat carrying four Estonians, two Latvians and two Russians approached the Arctic Sea in the Swedish territorial waters on July 24.
The Maltese-flagged cargo ship left Finland with a cargo of timber on July 22 en route for Algeria. The ship last made radio contact with British coastguards on July 28.