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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

New Details Emerge On Hijack Suspects

Six of the eight suspected hijackers of the Arctic Sea cargo ship served prison terms in Estonia between 2001 and 2005, the Investigative Committee said Monday, as new details trickled out about the suspects.

In fact, six of the suspects lived in the same district in Estonia’s capital, Tallinn, and most of them had grown up in the same courtyard, Komsomolskaya Pravda reported.

The six left Tallinn on July 17, telling relatives that they had a contract to work as guards in Spain, Alexei Bartenev, a brother of suspect Dmitry Bartenev, told the newspaper.

The report identified the suspects from Estonia as Alexei Buleyev, 33; Dmitry Bartenev, 42; Yevgeny Mironov, 30; Igor Borisov, 45; Andrei Lunev, 44; and Alexei Andryushin, 28.

It named the other suspects as Dmitry Savin and Vitaly Lepin from Latvia.

The Investigative Committee said in a statement Monday that the eight suspects were aged 30 to 45, more than 180 centimeters tall and in good health.

The statement said six of the eight suspects told investigators that they were Estonian residents, including two who said they were Russian nationals but showed no passports, one who had an Estonian passport and three who, according to preliminary data, are stateless. The last two suspects said they were Latvian residents, although one had a Latvian passport and the other had no passport.

Investigators said they also had determined that the eight suspects seized the Arctic Sea in neutral waters.

The authorities say the Maltese-flagged Arctic Sea was hijacked on July 24 off the coast of Sweden and liberated by the Navy off the Cape Verde islands on Aug. 17. Much remains unexplained about what happened and why pirates would target a ship carrying just $1.8 million in lumber.

Finnish police said Monday that Estonia had joined an international team studying the Arctic Sea mystery. Other members of the team are Finland, Sweden and Malta.

“Cooperation with Russia is particularly important for the solving of the case and is being currently built between the countries,” Finnish police said in a statement.

The suspected hijackers were charged with piracy and kidnapping on Friday. Although the Defense Ministry said earlier that the hijackers had demanded a ransom for the ship, prosecutors did not mention that in the charges they filed in Moscow’s Basmanny District Court, Kommersant reported.

The suspects’ lawyers said Monday that they would appeal the arrest of their clients, Interfax reported.

The ship’s Russian crew also is in custody as investigators determine whether they were in cahoots with the suspected hijackers.

Relatives of the crew appealed to Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill on Monday to help free their loves ones, Interfax reported.

Russian Orthodox Church spokesman Vsevolod Chaplin said the church would “contact state agencies” to see how it could help the families.

The families denied a prosecutors’ statement that the crew was not restricted in its freedom of movement and could call their families.

“We have no communication,” the wife of one of the sailors, Lidia Valova, told Interfax on Monday.

Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said Friday that the crew were free to move around the city and had cell phones on them to call their families.

President Dmitry Medvedev, meanwhile, has thanked the president of the Cape Verde islands, Pedro Pires, for providing assistance in transporting the Arctic Sea crew and suspected hijackers to Russia, the Kremlin said in a statement.