Latvia not to take part in anti-pirate initiative

The Baltic Times
Talis Archdeacon in cooperation with BNS
October 6, 2008

RIGA – The Latvian Defense Ministry has announced that the country will not take part in a European Union operation to combat pirates off the coast of Somalia.

A Latvian resident is currently being held captive after Somali pirates high jacked an arms shipment last week. Most of the crew was Ukrainian.

“The EU has not yet made a decision on the launch of the operation in Somaliaand on the military capacities to be involved in this naval operation. Latviadoes not plan to take part in it yet,” Latvian Defense Ministry’s spokesman Arturs Graudins was quoted by the Baltic News Service as saying on Oct. 4.

Estonia is the only Baltic state that has pledged to support the mission. Estonian Defense Ministry spokespeople said, however, that because of limited resources the country would not be able to provide ships or personnel for the operation.

Though Latviawill not participate in the EU operation, representatives of the foreign ministry have said that the country is working with Ukrainian authorities to try and free the captured sailors.

Lithuania, meanwhile, has applauded the EU effort to tackle piracy off the Somalian coast. Defense Ministry spokespeople said, however, that the country was not prepared to send troops on the mission.

Heavily armed Somali pirates have hijacked more than 60 vessels off the coast of Somaliathis year, making its waters the most dangerous in the world.

Somali pirates are currently demanding 20 million dollars to free 20 crew members and cargo of 33 tanks, grenade-launchers and other weapons aboard a Ukrainian ship hijacked last week. One of the ship’s crew members is a Latvian resident.

In late May pirates hijacked the freighter Lehmann Timber that had an Estonian national serving as first mate. The man returned home safely two months later.