Ariana Crew Members Still Adrift At Sea After Release

KIEV, Ukraine -- Freed from pirates on Dec. 10, the Ariana and its 24 Ukrainian crew members are still drifting along in the dark waters of the Indian Ocean. After seven months in the “pirates’ prison,” the Ukrainians are still not home free.

Relatives of the Ariana crew fought for seven months to secure the release of the 24 Ukrainians held hostage by pirates off the Somalian coast in the Indian Ocean. The crew was set free on Dec. 10, when Greek ship owner Spyros Minas paid a ransom. However, Ariana crew members still adrift at sea after release.

The latest word is that the ship is out of fuel near the Somalian coast and awaiting supplies. No one knows whether the crew will be returned to Ukraine by New Year’s Day.

“I have no more strength, no more tears and no more belief. It’s seems to me this nightmare will never end,” said Anna Murugova, who has spent 13 months without her husband, Andrey Murugov, Ariana’s mechanic. She is raising their baby on her own.

“All I need is my husband home,” Murugova said. “All I worry about is his mental and physical health. Somebody, please, end this torture.” This time, she said, the crew is being held “hostage to human ignorance and indifference.”

A ransom of $2.8 million was paid by the ship’s Greek owner, Spyros Minas, to free the hostages from the high seas pirates who kidnapped them. An American warship is temporarily guarding the ship in the Indian Ocean and supplying the Ariana with daily fuel needed to keep the engines working.

Relatives blame ship owner Minas for the slow progress in bringing the Ariana crew home. “The ship owner continues to demonstrate indifference and disrespect to the life of the Ariana crew,” said Zoya Vasilchenko, mother of 26-year-old crew member. Yuriy Vasylchenko. “[A fuel] tanker could have been arranged beforehand." There are reports that Minas is not helping with a possible airlift of the crew to safety. Minas could not be reached for comment.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry says it has been told by Minas’ representative that a tanker with fuel supplies is on its way.

“We all are exhausted by uncertainty, by fear,” said Nadezhda Geraschenko, wife of Ariana’s boatsman, Serhiy Gerashchenko. In a telephone conversation with her husband after the crew’s release, he told her: “I am standing on the deck in shorts, a beard down to my knees and 10 kilograms lighter.”

Crew members told relatives back in Odesa that the pirates stripped everything of value from the ship and left it a mess. “When we first went out on the deck, it seemed like a tribe of savages lived there. We are still cleaning out the ship,” Gerashchenko told his wife.

Despite the ongoing hardship, the nearby U.S. frigate provided medical examinations that showed that everyone on board was in satisfactory condition. The Americans are also supplying food, drinking water, medicines and clothes.

Even Larysa Salynska, the ship’s cook, who was in critical condition due to a miscarriage suffered on board, is doing much better. “She is not in critical condition anymore,” said Zoya Vasilchenko, mother of crew member Yuriy Vasylchenko.

There is still hope for a Happy New Year. "I believe that before the New Year we will be able to bring our sailors back to Ukraine," said the chief of Ukraine's Foreign Intelligence Service, Mykola Malomuzh, on Dec. 17.

Source: Kyiv Post