Russia - Russia has found a missing merchant ship, whose disappearance baffled European maritime authorities, near the Cape Verde islands and the crew are alive, Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said on Monday.

He told President Dmitry Medvedev that the crew of the Arctic Sea freighter, which went missing two weeks ago, had been taken on board a Russian navy ship.

Today at one o'clock in the morning Moscow time, the ship was found 300 miles off the Cape Verde islands, Serdyukov told Medvedev during a presidential visit to the southern Russian city of Astrakhan.

The crew have been transferred to our anti-submarine ship, the Ladny, where they are being questioned to clarify all the circumstances of the disappearance, he said. The crew are all alive and well.

The Kremlin ordered Russian warships to join the hunt for the 4,000-tonne, 98-metre bulk carrier Arctic Sea after it went missing in European waters.

The Maltese-registered vessel, carrying a $1.3-million (798,000 pound) cargo of timber, was supposed to have docked on August 4 in the Algerian port of Bejaia.

(Reporting by Denis Dyomkin, writing by Guy Faulconbridge, editing by Michael Stott and Charles Dick)