Dead pirates

A Russian tanker called "The Moscow University" -- containing 86,000 tons of crude oil valued at more than $50 million -- was boarded and seized earlier this month by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden.

Unlike other, more cowardly nations, which pay ransoms to such thugs and thus encourage their ongoing depredations, the Russians sent Marines, who retook the tanker with the help of a helicopter and a brief aerial assault.

President Dmitry Medvedev said the raid was "sharp, professional and quick" and awarded medals to all involved.

Russian media published a photograph showing 10 pirates lying face down, hands tied behind their backs, on the red deck of the Russian ship.

The lack of an international court to try pirates means "We'll have to do what our forefathers did when they met the pirates," Mr. Medvedev warned before Russian forces stormed the tanker.

Some thought that meant the Russians would bring the pirates home for trial. But initially, the Defense Ministry in Moscow said the pirates were released because there are no international guidelines for prosecuting the men.

Initial reports said the navy put the pirates in an inflatable boat some 300 nautical miles offshore, removing all weaponry and navigational equipment from the vessel.

A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman said radio signals from the boat vanished an hour after the 10 pirates were set free, and Russian authorities now say the group of freed Somali pirates are likely dead.

Many in the Russian media speculate that the pirates were killed. Somali pirate commanders have threatened to harm any Russian citizens found aboard future hijacked vessels.

The Somali pirates are not in a business with rules that are subject to negotiation. They are all going to be killed. The only remaining question is whether the nations who ship their lifeblood through those waters will grow impatient enough to take the war to the enemy, destroying every boat and port facility on the Somali coast in the meantime.

Barring massive storms uncommon in the Gulf of Aden, otherwise healthy men in an open boat do not die of exposure -- or anything else -- in a matter of hours.

Why all this rigmarole about setting the men free in a boat so they could "try again," only the Russians can explain.

It certainly appears the Russian Navy killed these pirates. Good for them. Hope they get some more.