ARCTIC SEA hijack mystery actual again
Recently, I’ve been contacted by several EU media, questioning me about mysterious story of timber carrier ARCTIC SEA (AS) disappearance in August 2009 in Baltic sea, whether I agree, now, with Russian official criminal hijack version, or still stick to my version. At least one media, La Stampa, wrote and published a story, another one is going live soon, in form of documentary.
Corresponding with those media, I wrote kind of a story, which was found by those who’ve read it, “great”, or “crazy”, or “astounding”. I guess, renewed interest in the AS story may be partially explained by present day Russia behaviour, its’ undisguised hostility towards Western countries and world in general, and absolutely insane policy, both foreign and home. I believe, that AS story and the background of the story, may for some part be responsible for recent troubles of Middle East, Syrian war and the ISIS. I won’t be surprised if sometime, some day, it will come out, that the stuff Russia was shipping to Middle East, somehow helped to instigate those troubles and problems, or added fuel. I believe, the whole story deserves a book, which I’m capable of writing, and yet, incapable.
Here’s the story, compilation from correspondence with media:
I was the one who made the whole story public. Leaving out for the moment some previous events, I published news on Arctic Sea disappearance after I was alerted by two messages, which came to me in less than 15 minutes. First was a phone call from Russian State Maritime Safety and Rescue Agency MRCC Moscow (I didn’t ever made public the name of the Agency, to avoid negative consequences for the Head of the Agency, whom I knew personally), second was a letter from Arctic Sea Master’s son. The head of MRCC asked me if I know anything about the vessel – he was asked (ordered) to find any info, and by whom?! By FSB (present Russia’s version of KGB) and by Russian Navy Commanding Center. Those were startling news in themselves, for those who understand. Never before Navy and KGB did worry about merchant ships, let alone ships under Flag of Convenience, belonging to a foreign company. It didn’t happen before, it didn’t happen after.
After that, nobody knew more about the development of the story, than me, at least in public. I was all the time ahead of all news agencies and as I found out later, I was pushing Russian authorities, forcing them to hurry up with their plans to create a cover story.
I figured out, that the vessel was already under Russian forces control, long before they declared that they freed the vessel, actually AS was under their control at least since Bay of Biscay. I have at least two facts to prove it.
The crew were divided, those who were taken to Russia were secluded in Moscow suburbs, banned from any meetings, even with relatives. The rest of the crew joined them later. Why? Did anyone ever know any piracy case, where the crew of hijacked by pirates vessel were secluded by force from public and even relatives, after their release? Answer is simple – they were prepared for official version, they learned the official version, they rehearse their roles, and enough fear was put into them not open their mouth, then or in the future.
Russia I believe (collateral facts), for some time mused the idea of sinking the damn bucket in the Atlantic or Med, but later decided not to.
Criminal version, concocted by Russian “law enforcement” agencies, just doesn’t stand any scrutiny, based on known facts and shipping professionals’ expertise.
What then, do I think it all was, if it wasn’t criminal? All facts I have at my disposal, lead me to a belief, that the hijack of AS was the inglorious finish of a clandestine operation ran by Russian authorities. They’ve been supplying to Middle East something real nasty, I’d bet on chemicals or nuclear, on generally, components or ready-made, weapons of mass destruction. I can’t explain kremlin panic, be it something else, even missiles (besides, they’re too bulky). Somebody who got real tired of those shipments, made a last warning by hijacking AS. USA and NATO decided to let Russia slip off hook, covering the confusion by any story Russia would be able to concoct (again, I have some facts to prove my version). OK, Russia concocted Estonian pirates – don’t forget, everything was to be made in a very short time, and I was pressing them all the time with my news and analysis.
I didn't believe, and don't believe, even for a moment, in hijack version, I mean criminal hijack by a gang of some idiots found in Baltic States. No way. This criminal version doesn't have any real and proven fact, except confessions, made by arrested criminals. Considering the fact, that they've been arrested by Russian law enforcement agencies, their confessions, not confirmed and checked by generally accepted legal procedures, can't be accepted as proofs.
Now, I have a mass, a huge volume of circumstantial evidence, heaps of them, which, taken together, can’t be explained by a criminal version, which was originated by Kremlin officials.
Back then in ’09, I was running two websites, odin.tc and odin.fm, the main was odin.fm, in form of a Forum. It was a chronology of the whole story, full of comments and facts from hundreds of readers. Two years later one Russian company, my former employer, offered me a rather substantial for me sum, and bought the site out. I wouldn’t sell it though, if they didn’t promise me my return to Russia and getting back my job and position. It wasn’t done, but money were paid, site with database was handed to them. Soon after that, the website was eliminated. All the materials were gone. But of course, all the materials do exist, in my archives, i.e. they’re not accessible for public.
For me, and for all I know, those guys, owners of AS and other vessels, were transponders, no more than that, they were financed, or chosen, to carry undercover cargoes from Russia to Middle East - either the whole business was a cover from the very beginning, or Solchart was chosen among other suitable companies, fitting the scheme. With AS case going public and I believe a threat from those who hijacked AS, to make public the whole business, Moscow closed the store, so to say. Solchart sold out all its' ships, Mr. Matveyev was reported to me later in 2010, as hiding in Cyprus, fearing for his life, as a person who knows too much for his own good.
From the point of view of shipping business, criminal hijack with the purpose either of getting ransom (Russian official version, the whole story was copypasted from Somalian piracy), or getting debt from owner, is absolutely meaningless, especially considering region - Baltic sea, of all seas! Technically, even theoretically, it is absolutely impossible undertaking - to hijack vessel, to demand ransom, to get it, and to escape. When we, hopefully, meet, I'll explain to you, why hijack-ransom business was possible, and flourishing in Somalia, and nowhere else, though for example, Nigerian pirates are much more military capable and ruthless thugs, than Somalians.Theoretically yes, it's possible to hijack merchant ship in any waters, demand and get a ransom, but only theoretically, it requires a number of conditions, and all of them are a far cry from AS case. Vessel and cargoes should be real costly, not a cheap aged forest carrier loaded with timber. It should be say, container ship, and with that, not a regional feeder, but ocean liner, with 10,000+ TEU capacity, full of goods. Level of the whole operation should be something resembling Bond movies - well, it's a whole story.
Answering some of questions:
Son of the Master – yes, Captain’s son.
I published news about half an hour after I got alert messages. Though actually, story began earlier.
With regards to Russian government or officials involvement – was that assumed clandestine logistics operation private, or the State was running it? Who else except State, considering the scale of the reaction after AS disappearance, and the scale of search and release operation?
President of Russia was ordering Navy, Space command, FSB/KGB, Investigation Committee and other agencies, personally, during the whole story. All trouble for what? For a vessel under a FOC flag, loaded with timber and belonging to a Finland-based shipowner? Nothing like that ever happened before AS, or after.
In December 2009, when I was already in Thailand, I’ve got an invitation from Ukraine to visit some people I knew in Odessa. I met in Odessa Deputy Chief or Ukrainian Security Agency SBU, their version of Russian FSB or USA FBI. That man I already knew – you see, Ukrainian authorities were indebted to me for my participation in the hijack of Ukrainian ro-ro FAINA, loaded with Ukrainian tanks. That man had/has a rank of general, and he was former general of Soviet KGB. He told me:
“Mike, you were dead right fleeting Russia. Believe me, nobody would go off without consequences after causing such a fuss on the very top of Russian government. President himself had to interfere and take situation under his control and command, you may not understand how serious it was, and what are the consequences for you. From now on, until you die or Russia falls apart, you’ll be under constant watch, you’re on a special check-list, so watch your back and mind your steps.”
But what’s the use of my saying all written above in public? As things stand now, no use. Public should have some sources to get the details, and compare versions. Public don’t have such sources. Most comprehensive materials were collected on my website odin.fm, but site was eliminated. I do have all those materials, in my archives, they are not public.
So anyone trying to make an independent investigation, or just understand what’s all about, will be initially restricted by lack of the main source of information, my chronology of the whole story, plus my analysis, including analysis and criticism of official versions, presented by Russian Investigations Committee.
But just publishing my archives is not enough. First of all, they are initially in Russian. They are to be systemized, translated and presented, along with analysis and my correspondents letters and readers’ comments. How about a letter from a Navy officer, who wrote, that he was on board of the ship deployed in AS “release”, and he wrote just to tell me, that the truth will be top secret for decades? How about a letter from a wife of an officer on board of one of Navy ships, deployed in that AS operation, who wrote to me, that she’s worried to death, because all the communications with her husband were abruptly and without explanation cut off, something which never happened before? She asked me, if it’s war or something?
Real soon after the story was over, and Russia launched an “investigation” and then court trial, media forgot all my materials (still online back then), and accepted an official version, notwithstanding its’ absurdity. I analyzed official version and demonstrated its’ inadequacy, but nobody cared. I was frustrated for some time, then I simply forgot it all. I don’t like memories, generally, whether good or bad. I live by present, by today’s needs and in part, by aspirations. For a long time, when I come across a new article on AS case, where the basics are official, I feel nothing more than a fleeting irritation. So be it, I really, don’t care.
Actually, the story is not something bygone presently, considering latest events and Russian aggression in Ukraine and elsewhere, including even USA coming elections. But it should be done in a correct way, I believe. I can accept it as a social responsibility, and do what I can, however much I dislike this story and many things related (including among other things, behaviour of crew and their relatives).
The whole story should be put into the book together with official version or versions (because actually, Russia came up with several versions), parallel, so that reader will be able to compare and make his own conclusion.
Am I able to write this book, in English? Technically yes, practically out of question. AS story made me an outcast, depriving me of more or less good income. Now I’m working for 10-12 and more hours daily, depending on number of maritime accidents, without days off, vacations or the right to fall ill. As it stands now, I can’t interrupt my present activities. I don’t have savings, property, insurance, I don’t have anything at all, I live on my monthly income.
What I want to say, is simple – I just don’t have means to work on book. Well, ruling out those few relax luxuries I still have, like riding motorbike or reading, I can save enough time, I suppose, to write such a book, but to what avail? Publish it on my website? How many people will read it, dozens, hundreds at most? Against Russian State version, which was read by millions and millions?
It’s my word against the word of the State, and States nearly always win.
Anyone interested in such a book and knowing how to do it (publish it, I mean) properly, may contact me firstname.lastname@example.org. I wrote quite a number of Navy and Merchant Marine studies of historical character (in Russian), which were found interesting and deserving publishing by readers, I even tried to contact some publishers, but failed. For me, process of writing a book is nothing when compared with the process of publishing it. If one knows the ways around, writing itself is no big deal – at least, that’s the impression I get regularly, trying to find something worth reading in countless stuff, which is littering bookstores.