Link Why Comrade what have you been doing? The official explanation coming out of Moscow is simple enough: the Arctic Sea, manned by a Russian crew, set sail from Finland under a Maltese flag on July 22. It was destined for Algeria and carried less than $2 million worth of timber. Then a group of eight Russian and former Soviet hijackers boarded the ship on July 24. The ship's tracking device was disabled in the last days of July, as it passed through the English Channel into the Atlantic, and the ship disappeared. On Aug. 12, the Russian navy sent out a search party. A week later, Russia declared that the ship and its crew had been rescued. But as details of the hijacking emerged, the tale got murkier, and Moscow's explanation does little to clear things up. Why, with so many other ships carrying much more valuable cargo, would the hijackers target the Arctic Sea and its small load of timber? Why didn't the ship send out a distress signal? Why did Israeli President Shimon Peres pay a surprise visit to Russia a day after the ship was rescued? Why did Russia wait so long to send its navy to find the ship? And what did the brother of one of the alleged hijackers, Dmitri Bartenev, mean when he told Estonian TV on Aug. 24 that his brother and the other suspected pirates had been "set up ... They went to find work and ended up in a political conflict. Now they are hostage to some kind of political game"? Bartenev's lawyer tells TIME that his client was "in the wrong place at the wrong time." There are also questions surrounding the Arctic Sea's rescue. On orders from the Kremlin, Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov sent a completely disproportionate force, including destroyers and submarines, to look for the vessel. It took five days for them to find it, the Defense Ministry said, even though the Foreign Ministry later announced that it was fully aware of the Arctic Sea's coordinates the entire time. To fly the alleged pirates and the crew back to Moscow — a group of only 19 men — Russia dispatched two enormous military-cargo planes. And then on their arrival, the ship's crew was detained along with the alleged hijackers for days of questioning, with no access to their families or the media. "Even from the basic facts, without assumptions, it is clear that this was not just piracy," says Mikhail Voitenko, editor of the Russian maritime journal Sovfrakht, which has been tracking unusual incidents on the high seas for decades. "I've never seen anything like this. These are some of the most heavily policed waters in the world. You cannot just hide a ship there for weeks without government involvement."