Ukraine's Foreign Ministry denied on Monday media reports that some Faina crew members, held captive by Somali pirates since September, have been seriously ill, RIA Novosti reported.

Somalia businessman Osman Farah, involved in talks with pirates, earlier said that seven crewmembers suffered from hypertension, intestinal infections and skin diseases and needed urgent medical aid. The vessel's Russian captain died of a heart attack in the early days of the hijacking.

"It is evident that they are not in perfect mental or physical health," the ministry's spokesman, Vasyl Kyrylych, said. "But, according to Ukraine's charge d'affairs in Kenya, their health is not as it was described by some media."

The spokesman said pirates could allow crew members to talk to their relatives by phone and make photos to show they are alive and well.

The Faina, with a crew of 17 Ukrainians, three Russians and one Latvian, was hijacked on September 25. The pirates initially demanded a $35 million ransom for the vessel, carrying 33 T-72 tanks and other heavy weaponry, but recent information suggests the figure has fallen to $3.5 million.


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