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Somali pirates 'to release Ukrainian vessel in next two weeks'

12.12.2008 Source: en.rian.ru

The Ukrainian ship Faina, captured by Somali pirates in September, may be released in the next two weeks according to a Russian website devoted to maritime issues.

"Agreement has basically been reached, there are just some details that have to be ironed out," said the Sovfracht Maritime Bulletin, adding that it expected the ship and its crew to be freed in "the next two weeks or so."

The Faina, carrying 33 T-72 tanks and other heavy weaponry, was seized by Somali pirates on September 25. The pirates initially demanded a $35 million ransom, but recent information suggests the figure has fallen to $3.5 million.

The crew is made up of 17 Ukrainians, three Russians, and one Latvian.

In response to the rise in pirate attacks in the region, the EU launched on Monday a joint task force, codenamed operation Atalanta, which involves eight countries, aimed at tackling piracy in the waters near the Gulf of Aden.

Russia dispatched a naval vessel, the Neustrashimy (Fearless), to escort commercial vessels in the region in October following the surge in seizures.

The Neustrashimy will conclude its escort duties at the end of the year when it when it will be replaced by the Pacific Fleet's destroyer, the Admiral Vinogradov, which left a naval base near Vladivostok on Tuesday on course for the Indian Ocean.

The east African nation has been without a functioning government since 1991 and has no navy to police its coastline.

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