Russia has charged eight suspects in the mysterious hijacking of the cargo ship Arctic Sea with kidnapping and piracy, investigators said on Saturday.
The suspects are charged with seizing the ship and its Russian crew on the night of July 24 while posing as police and then holding the sailors by force, the investigative committee of Russian prosecutors said in a statement.
It said that seven of the men were charged with participation in piracy and armed kidnapping, while an eighth has been charged with being the apparent mastermind of the operation.
"The eighth suspect has been charged with organising the above-mentioned crimes," the statement added.
The eight suspects were brought to Russia last week aboard massive military transport planes from the Cape Verde archipelago, off which the Russian navy had succeeded in regaining control of the vessel from the hijackers.
Numerous questions still remain unanswered about the ship's mysterious disappearance and Russian investigators have cast doubt on whether it was carrying only its stated cargo of timber.
Shipping experts have questioned why the hijackers would take so much time and risk over a relatively insignificant cargo, seizing the ship in the Baltic Sea in one of Europe's busiest shipping lanes.