Russian authorities said Wednesday they will run the investigation into the alleged Arctic Sea hijacking but will ask other nations to help solve the mystery of the cargo ship's bizarre voyage.
The Maltese-flagged freighter headed to Russia under a navy escort on Wednesday.
The Arctic Sea seemed to vanish after sailing from Finland on July 21 with a Russian crew and a load of timber. A Russian warship intercepted the freighter last week in the Atlantic and eight suspected hijackers are jailed in Moscow, facing charges of kidnapping and piracy.
Sparse information has led to speculation the ship could have been carrying sensitive cargo.
The Foreign Ministry said an initial search conducted shortly after the ship was intercepted revealed no suspicious cargo.
But the chief of the Russian military general staff, Gen. Nikolai Makarov, said Wednesday a more thorough search would be conducted after the freighter arrives in the Russian port of Novorossiisk in early September, state-run RIA-Novosti news agency reported.
According to Russian media, hijacking suspects say their case should be heard not in Russia but in Malta, or Sweden _ in whose Baltic Sea waters the alleged hijacking occurred. But Alexander Bastrykin, head of the federal Investigative Committee, stressed that Russia has jurisdiction over the ship and the suspects.
"We have the full legal right to conduct investigative activities with both the ship and its crew," Bastrykin was quoted as saying Wednesday in the government daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta.
"We do not rule out the possibility that they were carrying not only timber," he added.
In a statement on its Web site, the Investigative Committee said a Russian court had formally impounded the Arctic Sea and Russia plans to ask authorities in Sweden, Finland, Malta and other nations to "conduct investigative actions" in the case.
The agency also defended the treatment of 11 Arctic Sea crew members, calling them victims but demanding they remain in Moscow for further questioning.
"The rights of the victims are not being violated in any way," the agency said, adding they have been allowed to contact relatives.