'Israel behind Russian hijacking,' EU piracy expert tells 'Time'

EU's rapporteur on piracy says that despite official report, Israeli op was most likely scenario.

September 3, 2009 01:45
1 minute read.
'Israel behind Russian hijacking,' EU piracy expert tells 'Time'

Russian Ship Hijacked 248.88. (photo credit: AP)

The conspiracy theory which names Israel as the mastermind behind the mysterious hijacking of a Russian freighter in July appears to be gaining traction, with the European Union's rapporteur on piracy, Admiral Tarmo Kouts, expressing his support for that version of events. In an interview with Time magazine, Kouts said that the interception of the Arctic Sea, and the ship's subsequent total disappearance before being retrieved by the Russian navy, bared the marks of an Israeli operation, which he termed the most likely explanation. "There is the idea that there were missiles aboard, and one can't explain this situation in any other way," he told the magazine, becoming the highest-ranking official to date to support the theory. "As a sailor with years of experience, I can tell you that the official versions are not realistic." In response to Kouts's remarks, Russia's ambassador to NATO, Dmitri Rogozin, said that the EU official should stop "running his mouth." According to the official Russian explanation of the incident, the boat was simply transporting a shipment of timber when it was hijacked by pirates who originally claimed to be environmentalists. After the pirates turned off the ship's tracking device in late July, the boat effectively disappeared. Russia sent out a search party, and on August 17, the ship and its crew were rescued. While Russia has consistently denied any report which deviates from their official line, numerous papers quoting various experts claimed there was far more to the story. These experts cite a number of facts to support their theory, such as the ship not sending out a distress signal, President Shimon Peres's surprise visit to Russia shortly after the incident, and the unusually long amount of time it took the Russian navy to track down the freighter. Until today, no government official of any kind has gone on the record to accuse Israel as being behind the hijacking, but many have admitted that the story - or at least the official version - does not appear to hold water. "There is something fishy about this whole story, no doubt about it," former Israeli deputy defense minister Ephraim Sneh told The Media Line. "But I can't comment further on this."

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