- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating is associate editor at Foreign Policy and the editor of the Passport blog. He has worked as a researcher, editorial assistant, and deputy Web editor since joining the FP staff in 2007. In addition to being featured in Foreign Policy, his writing has been published by the Washington Post, Newsweek International, Radio Prague, the Center for Defense Information, and Romania's Adevarul newspaper. He has appeared as a commentator on CNN International, C-Span, ABC News, Al Jazeera, NPR, BBC radio, and others. A native of Brooklyn, New York, he studied comparative politics at Oberlin College.
President Medvedev sent the Russian Navy to find the Arctic Sea after it apparently disappeared while passing through the English Channel en route to Algeria from Finland. However, the Foreign Ministry in Moscow now says that Russian and international agencies had monitored the ship throughout its strange three-week voyage.
“Of course, the dry cargo carrier with a displacement of more than 7,000 tonnes was never missing. Its movement was being followed and its co-ordinates were being reported from several sources, including our foreign partners,” the ministry said.
This might have been something they could have shared with the other half dozen navies searching for the vessel.
It’s still not exactly clear what, besides its stated cargo of timber, the ship was carrying or why it was hijacked. But the story gets stranger:
The saga also took a bizarre new twist when the ministry disclosed that the ship’s captain had tried to pass off the Arctic Sea as a North Korean vessel when it was intercepted by the Russian Navy. This is the first time that investigators have implicated the crew in the mystery.
The ministry said that the captain “unexpectedly claimed” to be in charge of a ship called the Chongdin 2 that was carrying timber from Cuba to Sierra Leone. Russian diplomats in Pyongyang checked with North Korean officials and were told that the Chongdin 2 was docked at a port in Angola at the time.
“In view of this information, the command of the Russian Navy decided to examine the ship and the examination confirmed the surmise that it was the Arctic Sea,” the Foreign Ministry said. It gave no indication of how the captain knew of the other vessel’s existence or why the Navy was unable to identify the Arctic Sea from its markings.
Who gets caught and then claims to be from North Korea???