The government has confirmed the safety of all crew members of a Japanese fishing boat seized by Russia in waters off Hokkaido last week, its top spokesman said Monday.
Tokyo has urged Moscow to release the 14 sailors of the Eiho Maru No. 172 belonging to a fishery cooperative based in Hokkaido’s Wakkanai as early as possible and provide information on their health, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told a news conference.
Kato said the Russian side had supplied food, fuel and other supplies to the fishing boat. Japan has been collecting information through its consulate general in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk.
The 160-ton vessel was inspected by Russian authorities and detained Friday, before eventually being taken to Korsakov in Sakhalin in the Russian Far East, according to the Japanese and Russian governments.
The Eiho Maru reported to the Japan Coast Guard that something like tear gas had been fired by the Russian side, prior to the vessel’s detention.
Officials of the fishery cooperative have called the seizure “unreasonable” as navigation data show the boat was operating in Japan’s exclusive economic zone.
The Russian border security agency has said the Japanese vessel entered Russia’s EEZ and illegally fished there.
The agency said warning shots were fired to stop the fishing boat as it was attempting to escape from a Russian patrol vessel.
The incident took place two days after another in which a Japanese fishing boat collided with a Russian vessel and capsized off Hokkaido, leaving three crew members dead.
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