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Tanker with 18 crew, including Russian, freed off Somalia

17.11.2008 Somali pirates released the Stolt Valor tanker on Sunday with 18 crewmembers, including a Russian national, the Russian maritime journal Sovfrakht reported.

The tanker was seized two months ago off Somalia's coast. The other crewmembers are Indian nationals.

"The negotiations were lengthy and difficult, as the pirates used their usual tactics to exert pressure on the ship-owners via the public, in this case via India," the journal said.

According to the journal, none of the sailors were harmed after two months in captivity, and the details of their release are unknown.

Western media reported on Sunday that a ransom of over $1 million was paid for the release of the Stolt Valor and its crew.

Pirates are increasingly active in the waters off Somalia, where more than 60 ships have been attacked so far this year resulting in the seizure of around 30 vessels. The East African nation has no effective government and no navy to police its coastline.

The Russian frigate Neustrashimy (Fearless) recently joined international naval group, which has surrounded a Ukrainian ship, the MV Faina, which was seized by Somali pirates on September 25. The Faina's Russian captain died of a heart attack after the vessel was seized.

The pirates holding the ship have demanded an $8 million ransom, and have threatened to kill the hostages if a military operation is launched against them. Food and water supplies on board the vessel, which has been held for seven weeks, are reportedly running critically low.

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