Ukrainian tycoon paid lion's share of Faina ransom – Kyiv

15:17, 02 March 2009
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Viktor Pinchuk financed the expenses?

The majority of the multi-million dollar ransom handed over to Somali pirates for the release of a Ukrainian cargo ship was paid by a Ukrainian billionaire, the Ukrainian presidential press service said on Monday, according to RIA Novosti.

The Faina was hijacked off the Horn of Africa on September 25, 2008, and released at the start of last month. The ransom is believed to have been between $3 and $4 million.

"There is no itemization in the budget for `funds for the release of hostages," read the Ukrainian presidential press service statement.

"Therefore, the amount had to be collected from non-budget sources. As the head of the presidential chief of staff and coordinator of special operations, I officially requested help from Ukrainian businessmen who are well-known for their charity projects," the statement continued.

"Viktor Pinchuk financed the lion`s share of the expenses - several million dollars - in order to secure the release of the Ukrainian crewmembers. These were his own funds that he, as the founder of a charity, decided to use in order to free the Faina`s crew," the statement concluded.

Steel magnate Pinchuk is one of Ukraine`s richest men. According to Forbes, in 2007 his wealth stood at $5 billion. He is one of the main sponsors of a charitable foundation organized by ex-U.S. president Bill Clinton.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko personally thanked Pinchuk for his contribution toward the release of the Faina and its crew, the statement also read.

The crew of 17 Ukrainians, two Russians and one Latvian returned to Ukraine on February 13. The Faina`s Russian captain, Vladimir Kolobov, who died of a heart attack soon after the hijackers seized the ship, was buried in his home city of St. Petersburg on February 19.

According to the UN, Somali pirates carried out at least 120 attacks on ships in 2008, resulting in combined ransom payouts of around $150 million.

Around 20 warships from the navies of at least 10 countries, including Russia, are involved in anti-piracy operations off Somalia. The East African country has been ravaged by years of civil war, and has no navy to patrol it coastline.

Ria Novosti

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