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Owner of detained Russian trawler to sue Norway

MURMANSK, September 21 (RIA Novosti) - The owner of a Russian fishing boat detained off the Arctic coast Sunday will sue Norway, the head of the Northern Fishing Union said Thursday.

The Norwegian coast guard seized the Perseus-3 trawler on Sunday for alleged overfishing and convoyed it to the port of Vadso (118 miles from the Russian border). The vessel was released Wednesday night and arrived in the Russian port of Murmansk Thursday.

Union boss Gennady Stepakhno said a fine had been imposed on the trawler before the release but declined to name how much had been paid.

"The vessel was released from Vadso after the owner gave guarantees that he would pay the fine," he said.

Stepakhno said the owner would protest this decision in court as he considered all claims against the trawler to be unsubstantiated.

The trawler's captain said earlier the Norwegian authorities were seeking to impose a fine of 3 million Norwegian kroner (about $460,000).

Vadim Sokolov, a senior official from the Murmansk administration, told RIA Novosti that Norway was trying to put pressure on Russia prior to a session of a bilateral fisheries commission due in October.

"Such things happen every year," he said. "Last year, Norway detained three Russian fishing boats near the Spitsbergen Archipelago on the first day of a session of the Russian-Norwegian fisheries commission."

The most dramatic episode in a Russian-Norwegian dispute over fishery rights unfolded in October 2005, when the Norwegian Coast Guard service pursued Russia's Elektron trawler across the Barents Sea for five days. The vessel refused to follow Norwegian orders October 15 to go to a port to be checked for alleged fishing violations, and fled into Russian waters with two Norwegian inspectors on board.

Russian officials have consistently claimed that under a 1920 agreement signed by 48 countries, including Russia, they have equal fishing rights near the Spitsbergen Archipelago.

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