As intelligence tracks down modern pirates: the secret international ties and gentlemen’s agreement

Of Maritime piracy five years was not heard. Daring Somali robbers, seized for ransom, the crews seemed to have gone underground — as cut off. But the cut is not good. Recently bespredelschik reminded myself: coming from Djibouti to Mogadishu under the flag of Comoros tanker “ARIS-13” with the Sri Lankan crew were attacked by high-speed boats. And after the coast guard intercepted the boat with food for the pirates, the hostages were released. And without ransom. Which never happened before. Usually everything was started with the sole aim of any way to get a bribe, and the more the better.

We decided to recall the events of 2006-2010, when the news reports started reports capture another merchant vessel with Ukrainian crew on Board. And today, on hearing the beautiful name of “Faina”, “Panagia”, “Ariana”, “Marathon”, “Sirius star”, “Lehmann timber”, and the dramatic long struggle for the liberation of seafarers.

The events, often from an insider, but well informed sources (formal structures avoided reviews, or even suppressed information) were regularly covered by our newspaper.
Lieutenant-General Vasily Vakariuk now retired. In 2008-2010 he was the Deputy head of the foreign intelligence Service of Ukraine and the fight against international terrorism, organized crime was his main “Forte”.

— We had close encounter with piracy in the most severe manifestations, — says “Today” Vasily Illarionovich. — Without a clear interaction of CBP, the Gur of the Ministry of defense, security service with intelligence services of a number of countries had nothing to rely on the efficiency of liberation of the Ukrainian citizens captured by Somali pirates…

After the capture. The pirates did not stand on ceremony, to behave impudently

All is well understood: if we act separately, and each will stick to their guns — will benefit only criminals.

— Great help, though not immediately, had a Kenyan intelligence, military and civilian, continues Vakaryuk. For our group there was assigned to the officer, who decided questions that arose. Lived in a hotel in the capital Nairobi, where there was a small, but mobile, have good communication operational headquarters. He coordinated and organized work.

With the assistance of the Kenyan partners were able to establish contact with the leader of one of the Somali tribes, who arrived in Nairobi from the United States. To the best of this man also helped the staff, despite the fact that people have not always moved towards it — like, native, and adopted a line of white strangers.

— He felt the language problem, — says the General. — Often had to resort to double and even triple transfer, given the very peculiar, is far from rare original English and local dialects. But it was the minor nuances. The main task is to seek the unconditional release of our sailors. People were in extremely difficult conditions. Not enough basic food, water, medicines. Not all survive the heat, the tightness. Manifested disease. Some refused nerves. Clear was and anxiety relatives.

Someone in Ukraine believed that they do nothing, and came almost to the resort, while the staff worked around the clock, adjusted for the time difference between Kiev, London, Washington,… Someone demanded immediate reaction to the ultimatum of the pirates, and it was possible to expect anything. The situation was constantly monitored with President Viktor Yushchenko and the foreign intelligence service Mykola Malomuzh.

In General, the work happened in conditions close to the fighting. In fact, this was the game battleship. Only not on the pages of school notebooks in the box, and in the real world thousands of kilometers from Ukraine. For each vessel was human destiny…

The most successful operations Vakariuk believes the release of the crew of “Faina” and “Ariana”.

A high — ranking official of the local Ministry with a diploma of Ukrainian universities, helped to smuggle Ukrainian sailors food, water, medicines, the General says. — Due to several circumstances he was forced to leave the country, but had a lot of connecting and family member to facilitate contact with the pirates…

Taciturnity of the leaders of the SVR, the SBU, power steering, very sparingly shared information with the press, Basil Vakariuk explains gentlemanly agreements with Kenyan and other special services.

We were bound by their requests, that our side there had been leaks about the negotiations, the amount of the ransom, conditions of release, other details of the operations, he adds. — Another thing is that pirates of the initiative had found a way to Western news agencies, and they, wittingly or unwittingly, was going on about them, spreading some of the requirements, then changing to the other. This is a complicated work. And therefore had to remain silent, although we had something to say. But one careless word would negate the efforts of hundreds of people…

Return. Freed from the captivity of the sailors were greeted as heroes

To counter the pirates had planned to raise an armed detachment “alpha” of the Center of special operations of SBU. Worked out ways of getting the operational group from the air, sea and shore. However, it did not happen.

— Yes, the question was put to a meeting of the Council and was discussed several times at the President — is responsible Vakaryuk. — “Alpha” preparing for this trip: selected personnel, conducted training, purchased a weapon… But it would be extremely difficult operation — and in terms of delivery of the SWAT team in a dangerous area, and in terms of its application. It would take a lot of approvals, starting our the Verkhovna Rada, Secretariat of the President and ending with the governments of several countries and the UN security Council… it Was found that the operation is too dangerous and costly. The military option itself would not be justified. But the problems would add…

Perhaps it is the non-use of force unexpectedly responded few years when this spring the pirates are simply returned to the crew of the tanker “ARIS-13” without any money. The rejection of force and weakness are not synonymous…

Vakariuk have lots of different experiences over the years, but as a true scout is not very talkative even in retirement. To clarify, that is most etched in my memory, impressed, responded vaguely — say, just had a bit of everything:

And memories yet does not pull — many of true and psevdogeroev of those events alive, occupy a fairly high position, and in intelligence, as in medicine, the most important rule — do no harm…

Vakariuk: “Colleagues have asked us not to leak”


As you capture merchant ships appetites of the pirates increased exponentially.
So, the ship “Panagia” with the Ukrainian crew returned in a relatively “modest” amount of $700 thousand Ship “Lehmann timber”, whose crew had been put in prison a month and a half, for $750 thousand

The supertanker “Sirius star”, a team which also consisted of Ukrainians, carried more than 2 million tons of barrels of oil worth about $100 million For his release the pirates received $3 million.

The vessel “Ariana” with 24 Ukrainians were released for 3.5 million dollars, although initially the attackers were counting on 10 million

Immediately after the capture of “Faina” with a large party of tanks T-72M, systems of volley fire “Grad”, grenade launchers, and other weapons, “dogs” and demanded $30 million and Then reduced the amount to 20 million, the Official Kiev has refused to negotiate with them. Then the bargaining began. Came together in the end for $3.2 million

The record ransom of $9.5 million was paid to pirates in 2012 for the release of the Greek supertanker with a million tons of barrels of oil on Board.

These are the “price lists” sea battles with the pirates of the XXI century…



Mikhail Voitenko, an expert in the field of navigation, the chief editor of the specialized site “the Sea Bulletin”:

“Somali and other piracy encouraged by the policy of several States. A threat can very quickly and effectively to eliminate in the shortest possible time in the development and adoption of the Convention, legalizing private armed guards around the world. But it is necessary to nobody. The threat is too favorable to insurers, the military of many countries, coastal States. This is a business for those who advertise themselves as fighters against piracy. We need only to protect shipping, and at his expense, it was not against. But there is no such. But the piracy will continue. Perhaps even all of these eagles-the fighters will be able to revive the Somali piracy”.


Alexander Fedotov, a former member of the Secretariat of the Ombudsman:

“In October 2008, using a stay at an international conference in Kenya, the representative of BP on human rights Nina Karpachova has launched to rescue the crew of “Faina”… intelligence officials who were transferred from two other embassies in Africa, was able to find individuals with access to the pirates. Agreed to contact with them. For conspiracy the connection was established from my private rooms at Sarova Stanley. The commander of the pirates was a Mohammed. In English I asked to speak with someone from the crew. Then Nina Karpachova spoke with Alexander Preshow. The main problem was the fuel for the generator feeding the refrigerator, where was the dead body of the captain of the “Faina” Kolobkov. The vessel was out of food. Our delegation gave all his per diem, and local contacts, purchasing fuel and food, sent them on Board (according to another source, the money for the life support team and the ship “pulls” from the funds of the ship owner Vadim Alperin, and using Kenyan partners controlled shipchandlers company bought food, fuel, water. — Ed.). A crew member from Latvia Grigorieva pirates took the shoes, and we are from Kiev brought the shoes on the 5th berth of the port of Mombasa I gave him on Board…”.


On the questions of “Today” said the former head of the Department on combating international terrorism, organized crime, foreign intelligence service of Ukraine the General-the Lieutenant in resignation Alexander Khristenko.

Name: Khristenko Alexander Borisovich

Born: 25 may 1958 in Kremenchug (Poltava region)

In the organs of state security came 36 years ago from a trade school, where, after the history Department of the pedagogical Institute, he taught history. The KGB, the SBU, the foreign intelligence Service gave 10 years. Worked for four years at the Embassy of Ukraine in Kazakhstan. Participated in the liberation of the Ukrainian hostages in Chechnya, Somalia and other hot spots. The SVR was responsible for the negotiation process with Somali pirates and interaction in this area with the Main intelligence Directorate of the defense Ministry and security Service.

— Alexander Borisovich, why Ukraine never used against Somali pirates force? Heads of security and its Center for special operations has confirmed readiness to use “alpha”, shared his plans for how to retake captured vessels, the release of the sailors, to protect the crews from new attacks…

— Using mobile unit “alpha” was discussed at the level of the national security Council, the President of Ukraine… We are opposed, because he believed the use of force is unreasonably dangerous and costly.

— Justify!

— What aims did you put those who offered? The release of the vessel? The load? The rescue crew? If you predict the consequences of such a RAID, no goals to achieve would have failed. In the case of the seizure of the priorities — the life and health of the hostages. When we were in Mombasa, which came to Faina, I found the cabin, where our sailors and those with whom we were negotiating. Told that there was a machine gun. Start the operation “alpha”, all of the hostages, the pirates would have been shot. And then what?

— But somebody has put forward this proposal!

I have no doubt the fighting qualities and capabilities of the “alpha”. Acquainted with many of her colleagues has seen them in action. But combating terrorism and piracy are not one and the same. Terrorists pursue political interests. Pirates — economic. There would be questions on political-legal norms such operations outside Ukraine. It would take a lot of coordination with ship owners, insurers, governments adjacent to the area of application, the Somali authorities. Plus the resolution of the Verkhovna Rada, plus the sanction of the UN security Council.

— The conspiracy at least one share could be held?

— No! As impossible to deliver “alpha”.

Khristenko: “Where’s the ransom money, I can’t say now”

Well, the plane!

— The necessary approvals of the flight on Board after all, would be armed soldiers and not ordinary passengers. But if I agreed with aviation authorities, where these fighters to place in Djibouti, with whom to negotiate? How to throw a squad into the area location of the captured ship? A helicopter? Secretly failed, and the fuel for the return journey to the coast would not be enough. Notice by sea pirates… All very risky. It required huge costs, amounting to millions of dollars… So from a military option was refused — and correctly. At stake was not the tanks, not the cargo, we thought about people…

— By the way, about the tanks. Whence arose the rumor that the cargo “Faina” was meant for South Sudan?

— Someone wanted to cast a shadow on Ukraine, supposedly in violation of the embargo on deliveries of weapons and military equipment to the troubled country… According to the accompanying documents, the final recipient of the cargo was listed as the Ministry of defence of Kenya. There would “Faina”a…

But then these tanks, “Grads” could be in the hot spot?

— My remit was not to track the further destiny of cargo. And was not a problem before the representatives of Ukraine. Left it to Kenya or resold, you should ask authorities.

— Our crews were not prepared to repel the pirates!

— In Soviet times, worked out the instructions that in case of an attack to fight back, jets of water from fire hoses, RUB rails with machine oil, to slip, to turn on the siren… no One thought the pirates high speed, maneuverable boats, modern firearms. The bandits behaved decisively, mercilessly shot in cold blood… Ukrainian Vartenkov who tried to make the door in the hold, there to hide our sailors… And then, when there were negotiations, and we demanded to show on the deck, all intact, put it up, posing for the living, although it is a month, as he was dead…

— What can you tell us of what we didn’t know before?

— Good interaction between the military and external intelligence services of Ukraine. That SVR was ready to accept this challenge, given the previous experience of the liberation of hostages in Chechnya, and other hot spots. Excellent and reliable team, which fell to work. Coherence of technical intelligence and intelligence.

— What is mehrzweck?

In that situation, the interception of the conversations that the pirates were on the ship between themselves and with the leaders of the gangs, driving them from the mainland.

— How was the interception of the audio signal?

— Via a satellite link. Our Department of technical intelligence was able to monitor phone conversations. This allowed us to better navigate the environment, to calculate the solution.

— How the pirates transferred the money, and what budget line was provided for their selection?

— Sorry, I have no right to talk about it even now.

— At least hint that this is some private special Fund, the emergency reserve Gokhran in case of force majeure…

— It was not a special Fund of the Cabinet… But, believe me, to a resource (that’s what we called is designed to ransom money) to deliver it, to transfer cash was very difficult. This is a separate page… the first time I saw such amounts of cash… the Resource is checked, recounted, were the acts of… Well about the operation to dump money on “Faina” you wrote…

— Wrote. And where the pirates had so many weapons, speedbow?

Market! There is money — there are machines and weapons.

Piracy is not sunk into Oblivion, we hear about it?

It is not defeated as a phenomenon. It only temporarily subsided. There are many reasons, both objective and subjective. The pirates felt a strong opposition from the leading countries. The role played by military-sea operation of EU “Atalanta”. In recent years, significant changes have taken place in Somalia itself. The state was divided into several provinces, which also affected the crime situation. But in General gained significant experience in the fight against piracy in the horn of Africa, and not only there.

Many hostages, nastradamus in captivity, was going to say goodbye to the profession. But left again in flight. Why?

It is their job, their bread. Earnings, allowing to support a family, children. And the risk was, is and will be.

— Is it true that sometimes the foreign intelligence Service was leaking information to some experts who used in its reviews and analytical articles?

With some competent experts, we have been in contact and shared information. I don’t see anything wrong with that. Work so many of our colleagues.

— What do you remember from those events?

— Shocked the monstrous mess that was left on the “Faina” pirates. Not want to even talk… But it — will not forget. Food and water was not enough, but one kid from the crew, a good soul, held in his bosom and fed a small turtle…

“Faina”. This picture became a sensation and toured all the world’s media