MOSCOW: The hijackers of the Arctic Sea, the freighter found this week by the Russian Navy, demanded a ransom of $1.8 million from the ship's insurer and threatened to shoot the crew and sink the vessel, the insurer says.
The armed gang boarded the ship by posing as stranded sailors whose vessel had broken down, said Russia's Defence Minister.
The Moscow-based insurer Renaissance Insurance received a call on August 3 from a person speaking English and claiming to be an intermediary for the hijackers, Vladimir Dushin, the vice president for security, said on Tuesday.
''They informed us the ship had been seized and threatened to sink it in five days if the amount wasn't paid,'' he said.
The information was conveyed to Russian security officials. The Maltese-flagged ship was insured for $4 million, Mr Dushin said. The insurer helped communicate with the hijackers in the following days, he said.
Russia detained eight suspected hijackers after a 25-day odyssey that ended in the Cape Verde islands off west Africa, the Defence Minister, Anatoly Serdyukov, said.
The eight hijackers are citizens of Estonia, Latvia and Russia, Mr Serdyukov told the President, Dmitry Medvedev, in comments on the Kremlin's website.
Mr Serdyukov said the gang had seized the freighter at gunpoint in the Baltic Sea.
''These people, after claiming that their boat was not working, boarded the Arctic Sea and, using the threat of arms, demanded that the crew follow all of their orders without condition,'' he said.
The freighter had been sailing from Finland to Algeria.
Russia learnt of the Arctic Sea's location ''several days ago'' and kept the information secret to give its warship, the Ladny, time to surprise the hijackers, the Government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta reported.
The incident was brought to an end on Monday without a shot being fired when the vessel was intercepted.
The 15 crew were due to board a military plane for Moscow.
Russian authorities have opened a criminal investigation on charges of ''kidnapping'' pending a complicated legal debate over jurisdiction.
Bloomberg; Telegraph, London