In mid-June, eight of the arrested Russian sailors were acquitted by a Nigerian court and already returned back to Russia.© AFP 2013/ Pius Utomi Ekpei
MOSCOW, September 26 (RIA Novosti) – Nigeria’s foreign minister pledged to help Russian sailors arrested near the West African country’s coast on arms smuggling charges last year to return home, the Russian Foreign Ministry reported.
The ministry’s statement, posted following a meeting between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Nigerian counterpart Viola Onwuliri on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York on Wednesday, said Lavrov pushed for the soonest return of seven sailors to Russia.
“The Nigerian minister, for her part, pledged that she would contribute to that in every possible way,” the statement said.
A total of 15 Russian sailors were arrested near the Nigeria’s coast in October 2012 on arms smuggling charges. All of them belonged to the crew of the MV Myre Seadiver vessel owned by Moscow-based security firm Moran Security Group.
In mid-June 2013, eight of the arrested Russian sailors were acquitted by a Nigerian court and returned to Russia.
A Nigerian court postponed until October 8 the trial of the remaining seven sailors, who, according to a Russian Foreign Ministry report in July, were in the Russian Embassy's compound in Lagos awaiting the court ruling.
Nigerian authorities detained the Myre Seadiver ship with the Russian crew in the port of Lagos on October 19 last year after finding weapons, including 14 Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifles and some 8,000 rounds of ammunition, on board.
Moran Security said the arsenal was designed to ensure protection against pirates, who often attack ships along the Nigerian coast.
The Myre Seadiver is an auxiliary vessel used to support maritime oil extraction and transport operations. The owner earlier said the vessel had been authorized to make a port call in Lagos three weeks before its arrival and had all the necessary documents declaring the presence of weapons on board.
Updated to add details in last three grafs.
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