2 Oct 2008

Russia ready to attack pirates - reports

9:22 am on 2 October 2008

Speculation is growing that Russia will attack pirates who hijacked a Ukrainian ship carrying tanks and weapons off the coast of Somalia.

Russia has sent a frigate to the scene, adding to an already tense stand-off between the pirates and the USS Howard.

Earlier this week, there were reports of a shoot-out aboard the MV Faina, which was seized last Thursday.

The Faina is carrying 33 Soviet-era T72 battle tanks and the pirates want a ransom of $US20 million.

They claim the arms were headed for Sudan. The Ukrainian owners of the ship and Kenyan government say the tanks were destined for Kenya.

The crew of 20 are mostly Ukrainians, but include two Russians. Another Russian died of illness after the hijacking.

Somali authorities have reportedly given the Russian navy the go-ahead to use force against the pirates.