The missing dry cargo ship, Arctic Sea, which disappeared at the end of last month has been discovered 300 miles off the Cape Verde islands, Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov has announced.

The ship, bound for Algeria carrying £1m-worth of timber from Finland, last radioed the British coastguard on 29 July.

The defence minister said that the 15-member Russian crew were alive and have been taken to an anti-submarine warfare ship. The crew are currently being questioned to clarify the details of the incident.

The Maltese, Swedish and Finnish authorities said they were probing crimes of alleged hijacking and aggravated extortion concerning the cargo ship.

Maritime officials have been concerned that the 4,000t ship was hijacked by pirates.