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Dealing with the hostage crisis

  • 2009-08-12
  • By Rokas M. Tracevskis
VILNIUS - The highest authorities in Lithuania are in discussion over a skull and crossbones issue. The story on pirates in Nigeria kidnapping five Lithuanians dominates the Lithuanian media. Five Lithuanian crew members were taken hostage from a cargo ship off the coast of Nigeria. It is the first such attack on a Lithuanian-flagged ship in modern times.

On August 7, President Dalia Grybauskaite met with Foreign Minister Vygaudas Usackas and Finance Minister Ingrida Simonyte, who currently also works as acting prime minister, while Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius is on vacation. They discussed the worrisome event.

"There will be no negotiations over ransom with the kidnappers, as that would be a dangerous precedent," Usackas said after the meeting at the short briefing in the presidential palace.
He added that his ministry acts in contact with Nigerian authorities, as well as diplomats of the U.S. and European Union countries. Usackas said that the hostages are still alive.

According to the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry, none of the crew of the Lithuanian-flagged refrigerator vessel Saturnas had been injured in the attack, carried out by unidentified perpetrators. The current location of the hostages is unknown. The Saturnas belongs to Klaipeda-based Lithuania's Limarko Shipping Company.

The ship had a total crew of 14, all of them Lithuanian citizens. Nine out of the 14 crew remained on the ship, and none was hurt during the attack. The ship has not been damaged. The ship was carrying frozen fish. Five crew members, including the ship's captain Sergejus Triskinas, were taken away in a speedboat.
For one of hostages, Vladimiras Bazevicius, 63, this voyage on the Saturnas was the last before his retirement. He worked for Limarko for the last 18 years. These are difficult days for his daughter, Kristina Bazeviciute.

"This sailing on the Saturnas had a bad aura. On the eve of the trip, the sailors said that they had some bad feelings, although it was not the first voyage on that route. We get news from the media. I'm shocked by the indifference of our government 's nobody has called us," Bazeviciute told news daily Lietuvos Zinios.

Indeed, Kubilius decided that the hostage crisis is not a reason for interrupting his vacation, and kept pedaling his bike through Lithuania. However, on August 10, the Lithuanian Ministry of Health announced that it will offer psychologists' consultations to the hostages' families.
In March, Lithuanian Pavelas Galijevskis, together with the rest of the Norwegian tanker's Bow Asir crew, was held hostage by Somali pirates. He was freed when the owner of Bow Asir paid a ransom to the pirates. He says that Somali pirates are professional in their business. They are interested in ransom only, and have no intention to harm the hostages.
"Taking hostages is their business. It was easy to contact them via corrupt Somali officials. However, Nigeria is a completely different story. Their bandits are completely unpredictable," Galijevkis told news daily Lietuvos Rytas.

At the moment, there is no reliable information who are the hostage takers. According to Lithuanian LNK TV, it is a small group demanding from the Nigerian government a share in the oil industry revenue, while news agency Reuters suggested that it might be a group which protests against the Nigerian government-initiated disarmament of illegal groupings. Lithuanian officials are keeping their lips sealed. It is unknown if a ransom is being demanded.