MOSCOW, July 20. /TASS/. Russian diplomats in Nigeria, Benin are making every effort possible to search for and free Russian citizens who were kidnapped by pirates in the Gulf of Guinea, spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry Maria Zakharova said Monday.
"The Russian embassies in Abuja and Cotonou are constantly in contact with relevant Nigerian and Beninese agencies as well as representatives of the ship owner company. No efforts are spared to locate the kidnapped Russians and release them," she noted.
According to Zakharova, eight armed individuals assaulted the Curacao Trader tanker. "They are yet to put forward any demands. On July 19, the ship anchored near the port of Cotonou," the diplomat added.
Earlier, the Russian embassy in Nigeria reported that seven Russian nationals were kidnapped by pirates off the coast of Benin. On July 18, Alison Management Corp., the ship operator, revealed that pirates took 13 hostages in an attack on the tanker with 19 Russian and Ukrainian crewmembers in total. The company noted in a statement that its "vessel was attacked by pirates approx. 210 miles off the coast of Benin at 1100 hrs local time on 17th July."
Alison Management Corp. also stressed that "no effort shall be spared" to free the crewmembers who are likely to have been captured by south Nigerian armed gangs. Meanwhile, Agence France-Presse cited a spokesperson for the Nigerian navy, who revealed that pirates had yet to contact the company.
On July 17, Dryad Global, a portal specializing in maritime security issues, reported the pirate assault on Curacao Trader. According to the portal, eight armed people climbed aboard. It is also noted that the Gulf of Guinea has never seen hostage situations so far from the coast. The portal suggests that a major vessel could have taken part in the criminal operation.
The Liberia-flagged chemical or oil tanker left Togo’s Lome before it was attacked 230 nautical miles from Nigeria’s Lagos. Curacao Trader Shipping owns the vessel.