23 December 2011, 19:03

China, Ukraine: seized missiles are not ours

China, Ukraine: seized missiles are not ours

Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry has denied information about the arrest of Ukrainian sailors on board of the MS Thor Liberty cargo ship that was detained in Finland over charges of illegal shipping of weaponry. The cargo was destined for China.

China’s Foreign Ministry told reporters that 69 German-made Patriot surface-to-air missiles that were carried by the ship were to be transited to South Korea.

Seoul and Berlin signed a deal on supplying the  missiles in 2007, which was confirmed by Germany’s Foreign Ministry that claims that the missiles were sold legally with appropriate legal and customs documentation. The cargo was seized at the Kotka port because 160 tons of explosives were declared as fireworks. Timo Virtanen, detective chief superintendent at the National Bureau of Investigation, said that the cargo was registered as rockets but was mistranslated as fireworks.

The ship’s owner, Danish Thorco company, says that it knew nothing about the cargo and the missiles might have been loaded on board mistakenly, Helsingin Sanomat newspaper writes.

The crew comprised 11 Ukrainians who were allegedly charged with arms smuggling. The arrests were denied by Ukraine’s Ambassador in Finland after the diplomats had visited  the vessel and checked the sailors out-they were safe and sound,  not under arrest and had food and water.

Ukraine’s Ambassador in Finland also met with the Finland’s Deputy Foreign Minister and talked about the issue. Police are now investigating to find the vessel’s owner and the destination point for the missiles.

The crew provided all the documentation and is assisting in the probe. Police have no doubts in the validity of the documents, Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Dikusarov told reporters.

The missiles have been transported to warehouses owned by Finland’s Navy where they await  customs and security permission to be loaded.

The head of the Kotka Transport Department Markku Koskinen says that the cargo would be loaded at night by professionals and under strict control.

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