Wednesday, December 28, 2005


Russian oil smugglers return home.

The sailors were arrested on board the African Pride in 2003. Twelve Russian sailors convicted of smuggling crude oil from Nigeria have arrived back in Moscow from Africa. The men were convicted earlier this month but later released after having spent two years in detention. They were among 15 east European sailors arrested after being caught in possession of 10,000 tonnes of stolen oil worth 2m euros (£1.37m) in 2003.

Correspondents say the incident soured relations between Russia and Nigeria - Africa's largest oil exporter. The tanker - the MT African Pride - mysteriously disappeared from custody last year, causing embarrassment in Nigeria's political circles. Some 30,000 barrels of oil are believed to be lost to fuel thieves each day in Nigeria. The sailors received an emotional welcome from family and friends, and television crews, when they flew into Moscow's Sheremetyevo international airport on Wednesday.

"I finally believe that we are back, that I am free. There are no words to express what I am feeling now," the team's captain Valery Pakhomov was quoted by the Itar-Tass news agency as saying.


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