The Somali pirates who were captured in an assault operation after hijacking a Russian tanker near the Gulf of Aden and then released by Russian military officials have not reached the coast and have apparently perished, a top-ranking source in Russia's Defense Ministry told journalists on Tuesday. Russia's Moscow University tanker was hijacked last week near the Gulf of Aden. Ten pirates were captured and one was killed in the assault operation, which lasted just 22 minutes. None of the 23 Russian crewmembers on board the tanker were injured during the vessel's release. The captured pirates were initially to be sent to Moscow for prosecution, but Russian military officials then made the decision to release them, citing the absence of a relevant international legal base to carry out prosecution procedures against pirates and the inability to reveal the nationality of the detained hijackers. A source in the Russian Defense Ministry earlier told RIA Novosti that the pirates had been disarmed and "sent adrift" in a rubber boat without navigation equipment. The boat reportedly disappeared from radars an hour after they had been released by the Russian military. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev pledged last week to punish pirates who take vessels hostage off the Somali coast "with the full force of maritime law." Until a legal system allowing hijackers to be punished is created, "we will have to act as our forefathers did when they met pirates," he said, without specifying how exactly the pirates should be punished. Russia has repeatedly called for the creation of a special juridical body to try hijackers captured during anti-piracy operations off the Somali coast. In late April, the UN Security Council adopted Russia's proposal to consider the creation of a new court for this purpose. Russia's ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, has said that sometimes "people suspected of piracy are released just because it is impossible to bring them to justice quickly." *********** I wonder if the Russians actually freed them to swim home with an AK tied to each leg?