The Lidiya Demesh vessel was carrying a shipment of cars from the Japanese port of Hamata to Vladivostok, when it was stopped by the North Koreans on Saturday near Cape Musudan, three to five miles from North Korea's shores.
Captain Yury Buzanov said on returning to Russia that he was forced to enter North Korean waters to avoid a shipwreck due to a heavy storm.
"To save the crew I decided to enter North Korean waters because the waves in the Sea of Japan were three to four meters high with winds of 25 meters per second. In such stormy conditions, the cargo could have shifted in an instant causing the ship to lurch and sink," the captain said.
He said he was aware North Korean authorities could detain the vessel. "Of the two evils - possible death and detention by border guards - I chose the lesser," Buzanov said.
He added that all the 25 crew members had remained on board the vessel while talks to release the ship were in progress.
According to some reports, the Lidiya Demesh may have been detained for straying too close to a North Korean missile-testing site.
Another Russian vessel was detained by the North Korean Coast Guard Service near Cape Musudan in December 2005. The Ternei ship was caught in a storm on its way from South Korea to Vladivostok. The captain decided to seek shelter in North Korean territorial waters in line with the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), and informed North Korea of his plans.
However, the Ternei was later stopped for border violations by North Korean border guards. The Russian ship was escorted to the port of Kimch'aek and released two weeks later after mediation by Russian diplomats.