Russia will release on Wednesday two of the three Japanese fishermen it is detaining over alleged illegal fishing near disputed islands off Hokkaido, the Foreign Ministry said.
Ministry officials in Tokyo quoted Russian authorities as telling Japanese diplomats Tuesday they are ready to release Akiyoshi Kawamura, 29, and Haruki Kamiya, 25.
But the authorities said Noboru Sakashita, 59, the captain of the fishing boat Kisshin Maru No. 31, will remain in detention and that Russia will not hand over the boat to Japan as requested, according to the officials.
Diplomats from both countries agreed that Russia will hand over the two at 10 a.m. Wednesday near the median line in the Sea of Okhotsk, the officials said.
The Japanese government will continue to urge Russia to heed its call to immediately release the captain and the boat, they said.
Russia’s foreign ministry relayed the information to the Japanese Embassy in Moscow while border authorities notified the Japanese Consulate General in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, they said.
Russia had been saying all along it would only be willing to release the two crew members.
Foreign Minister Taro Aso talked with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, Monday night. Lavrov was quoted as telling Aso there is a difference between the captain and the two crewmen in terms of their involvement in the incident, in a hint that only the captain may be punished.
Yevgeny Lazarev, a spokesman for the coast guard service branch on Sakhalin Island, was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying the two crewmen were unaware of the fact that their fishing boat had entered Russian territorial waters.
He added Sakashita has assumed blame for the alleged violation, the report said.
He said questioning of Sakashita was nearly finished and that materials in the case against him would be delivered to prosecutors Wednesday for further action.
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