The eight men who were said to have commandeered a cargo ship in the Baltic Sea in July were locked up weeks ago. They were declared pirates, hunted down by the Russian Navy, captured without a fight and marched before television cameras to a Moscow jail.
But the swashbuckling tale, rather than ending there, has instead grown more mysterious.
What exactly befell the ship, called the Arctic Sea, is still largely unknown. In fact, nearly eight weeks after it was supposedly liberated by the Russian Navy, the ship is said to remain at sea under military control and has yet to make port for needed repairs. Four members of the ship’s crew have not been able to leave, despite repeated calls by their families for their release.
A dearth of official information has intensified the mystery surrounding the ship, whose travails have whipped up relentless speculation since it lost contact off the coast of Portugal in late July.
And as if the situation were not grounds enough for conspiracy theories, a bizarre detail has emerged: after seizing the ship, the hijackers sought to change its name by painting a new one on its hull, Russian officials said. The new name happened to be one that was already registered to a North Korean ship. [continued…]