MOSCOW, August 18 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian frigate Ladny has freed the Arctic Sea cargo ship in the Atlantic without firing a single shot and eight suspected hijackers have been detained, Russia's defense minister said on Tuesday.
The Arctic Sea vessel was located 480 kms (300 miles) off Cape Verde on Monday after being missing in the Atlantic for over two weeks. In addition to the 15-person crew, there were eight unidentified people on board.
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 hijackers boarded the Arctic Sea, threatened the crew with weapons and demanded that their orders be followed. The Arctic Sea was following en route to Africa continent with all of its communications and navigation equipment shut down, as ordered by the hijackers," the minister reported to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
The eight hijackers were arrested by Russian Navy personnel. None of the crew was injured in the operation, the Russian minister said.
"The investigation into the hijacking is continuing on board the Ladny frigate. We are taking measures to send the crew [of the Arctic Sea] back home," Serdyukov said.
Russia's Investigation Commission later said it had launched a criminal probe in connection with the hijacking.
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. Finnish police confirmed that a $1.5 million ransom demand had been issued.
Last week, President Medvedev instructed the country's Navy to launch a search for the missing ship.