The same Russian ship that sent in commandos to free the Moscow University tanker earlier Thursday it’s claimed has been the subject in recent weeks of complaints from Yemeni fishermen that is threatening to create a diplomatic row.
Arab News reported yesterday that “The Russian Navy has been accused of attacking Yemeni fishermen and destroying seven fishing boats in an incident last month, Arab News learned on Wednesday following a sit-in demonstration in the coastal city of Mukalla by Yemeni fishermen. They claim harassment by naval armadas is getting more aggressive.”
According to that Arab News report, the number and flag description indicates that the warship was the Udaloy-class destroyer RFN Marshal Shaposhnikov.
The Wednesday report – prior to Thursday’s rescue – noted that the Yemeni fishermen “described the vessel as bearing the number 543 and flying a white flag with a blue cross — the Russian Navy’s ensign. As they approached the ship, they saw 19 other fishermen held on board under armed surveillance.”
Yemen’s Foreign Minister Abu Baker Al-Qiribi is reported to have said his country is demanding compensation and has briefed ambassadors from the US, Russia, Japan, India, China and EU countries.
As reported, commandos from the Marshal Shaposhnikov ship freed the Moscow University tanker earlier on Thursday. The operation to release a Russian vessel seized by Somali pirates on Wednesday lasted 22 minutes, the commander of the Russian naval task force in the Gulf of Aden said Thursday.
“Around 3.00 a.m. Moscow time [23:00 GMT], the large anti-submarine ship sailed out toward the tanker’s location to assess the situation using technical equipment. Then the decision on conducting a special operation was made. During the operation, none of the Russians was injured,” the official said adding the pirates had been detained, as reported by RIA Novosti.
According to the official in that report, the commandos from the Marshal Shaposhnikov detained 10 pirates and killed one during the release of the tanker.
“During the reconnaissance preceding the assault operation, the Russian commandos simultaneously used helicopters and speedboats while special forces covertly approached the tanker,” the official said adding that after a short shootout the pirates were detained and put under custodial guard in one of the tanker’s compartments, the RIA Novosti report continued.
Thursday’s Russian operation to free the tanker mirror actions the Yemeni fishermen say they have been subject to in recent months.
“They used to mistreat us at sea but would set us free with our possessions,” said Awadh Abdullah Bamagad, a 30-year-old Yemeni fisherman, according to the Arab News report. “Now they don’t just confiscate fishermen’s proprieties, they destroy the boats.” That Arab News report added, “Bamagad and others described one incident that occurred on the morning of April 5 about 112 km from the coastal city of Qusay’ir when a helicopter gunship fired on a number of fishing boats.”
“We stopped fishing and decided to head back home because we were so terrified and thought it would come again,” said Bamagad.
According to the Arab News report, the helicopter returned and signaled for the fishermen to head west toward a warship.
“They rifled though our boats, taking our money, IDs, GPS units and even asked us to remove our clothes,” said Bamagad, according to the article, which added that the men were all placed on one of the vessels and ordered to return to Yemen. “We waited for a moment hoping that they might bring back our stolen possessions,” said Bamagad. “Instead, they fired behind the boat to force us to leave.”