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Guinea says navy, not pirates, seized Russian ship

Written by: Staff

CONAKRY, Aug 24 (Reuters) A Russian tanker which Moscow said was seized by armed men off West Africa was in fact boarded by the Guinean navy on suspicion of illegally selling fuel, security sources in Conakry said today.

Russia's Transport Ministry said on Tuesday the 3,000-tonne Luchegorsk, owned by Primorye Shipping Co (PRISCO), had been boarded by armed men dressed in black and sailed to Guinea's port capital, Conakry. It said it wanted the ship released.

Guinean authorities initially denied they had been involved, saying the incident had taken place in the territorial waters of neighbouring Sierra Leone. But today security sources said the ship's crew had been detained in Conakry.

''This boat was boarded and inspected by members of the Guinean navy who surprised it while it was dealing in fuel products in Guinean waters without authorisation,'' one source close to the investigation told Reuters, asking not to be named.

''The ship was flying no flag and its owners and crew members know perfectly well what that means. It's very serious.'' Moscow said on Tuesday the ship had been providing bunker fuel to other vessels. PRISCO specialises in shipping oil and refined oil products in the Far East and Asia-Pacific regions.

Some Russian media reports said the armed men had demanded 20,000 dollars when they boarded the ship but the source close to the investigation in Guinea denied this.

''Just by looking at the members of the (Russian) crew, any intelligent person can see that they're the ones who look like pirates,'' the source said.


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