Somali Pirates Set Ukraine Crew Free - Ransom $2.8 million Dollars

KIEV, Ukraine -- Somali pirates set a Ukrainian crew and the Greek- owned cargo ship Ariana free on Thursday after making a 2.8-million- dollar ransom payment, officials in Kiev said.

Greek-owned cargo ship MV Ariana.

An aircraft dropped the cash into water adjacent to the vessel, to be collected by pirates in a small boat, said Mykola Malomuzh, a spokesman for Ukraine SBU (formerly the KGB) national spy agency.

The 24-man crew and ship would arrive at an as yet undisclosed Middle Eastern port in five to seven days, Malomuzh said, according to an Interfax news agency report.

All the crew members were in reasonably good health despite their seven-month ordeal as hostages, he said.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko said the Ariana's release demonstrated 'a high level of professionalism' by Ukrainian government agents sent to the region to free the crew.

'Our external intelligence agencies and national special services performed excellent work,' Yushchenko said, speaking to reporters in the west Ukrainian city Ivano-Frankivsk, according to a Unian news agency report.

The Ukrainian government would send an airplane to bring the sailors home once they reached land, Yushchenko said.

Pirates captured the Maltese-flagged Ariana on May 2 as the ship was traveling north past the Somali coast towards the Red Sea.

They held the ship and crew hostage in the Somali port Haradheere, according to news reports.

Source: DPA