Did Israel Stop Russian Ship to Prevent Missile Delivery?

Russian reporter who broke story of Arctic Sea's hijacking flees the country.

ByABC News
September 2, 2009, 12:16 PM

MOSCOW Sept. 2, 20009— -- A top European Union official says that the cargo ship Arctic Sea that disappeared in the waters off of Portugal in late July was secretly carrying Russian missiles bound for the Middle East but was intercepted by Israel.

The Russian maritime expert who broke the story of the ship's disappearance agrees that the ship was likely carrying something Russia doesn't want the world to see and has fled to Turkey after a mysterious phone call told him to "get the hell out of Russia."

"There is the idea that there were missiles aboard, and one can't explain this situation in any other way," the EU's rapporteur on piracy Admiral Tarmo Kouts told Time Magazine, confirming that he believes Israel was behind the interception of the Arctic Sea. "As a sailor with years of experience, I can tell you that the official versions are not realistic."

The official version is the ship was sailing from Finland to Algeria with about $1.5 million worth of lumber. On July 24, it was reportedly boarded by hijackers in the Baltic Sea. After 12 hours, the crew radioed shore saying the hijackers had left and they were continuing on their voyage. After the ship passed through the English Channel a few days later, there was no more contact with land and the vessel vanished off of radar screens on July 29.

Two weeks later, Russian president Dmitry Medvedev ordered the Russian Navy to go find the ship and its Russian crew. They located it on Aug. 17 off the Cape Verde Islands and claimed to have taken it back from the pirates – who were still on board – without firing a shot.

The navy has now commandeered the ship and is towing it to a port in the Black Sea so that investigators can "find out what cargo the Arctic Sea was carrying," a spokesman from Russia's Investigations Committee told Interfax. They deny that arms were on board but don't rule out the possibility of something besides lumber being in the hold.