Russia has lifted the arrest of the cargo ship Arctic Sea vessel, which is due to be handed over to Malta shortly, Itar-Tass news agency said today, quoting a spokesman for the Investigations Committee of the Prosecutor General's Office, Vladimir Markin.

"To ensure the soonest solution of the issue of handing over the vessel to the Maltese side, the SKP has decided to lift the arrest ordered by the Moscow's Basmanny Court after meeting the investigators' petition," Markin said.

"A conference to work out a handover procedure took place in the Russian Foreign Ministry, following talks with Maltese authorities, and within the framework of the interdepartmental group for handing the Arctic Sea to the authorized representatives," he added.

The Arctic Sea is currently just off Malta's territorial waters escorted by a Maltese patrol boat, It is to be inspected by the Maltese authorities before being allowed into Malta.

The handover to its Finnish owners is expected t take place before the ship enters Grand Harbour, possibly tomorrow.

The Maltese-registered freighter was reportedly hijacked near the English Channel in July and seized by Russian forces in August off Cape Verde Islands.

Eleven crewmembers and eight captors were flown to Moscow by Russian Air Force aircraft on August 20. Still on board the vessel are its captain and three crewmen, as well as men from the Russian forces.

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