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    Japanese captain can be released only with respect for Russian law

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    NEW YORK, September 21 (RIA Novosti) - The Japanese captain of a trawler at the center of a fatal incident with Russian border guards in August can be released only with respect for Russian law, the Russian foreign minister said Thursday.

    The Japanese captain was arrested August 16 near the Kuril Islands, off Russia's Pacific coast, in an incident in which one of his crewmates was fatally shot by Russian border guards. Russian officials said the vessel was suspected of illegally fishing for valuable crab in Russian territorial waters, and that border guards had fired warning shots only after it had refused to stop.

    "Talks about the fate of this [Japanese] citizen can be held only with respect to Russian laws," Sergei Lavrov said.

    A district court in the Sakhalin Region Thursday fined 59-year-old Noboru Sakashita 250,000 rubles ($9,330) for poaching and illegally crossing the Russian border, and ordered him to pay an extra 245,854 rubles (over $9,150) in compensation for damage to the environment. The court also confiscated the trawler.

    Sakashita said he took responsibility for the incident while being questioned by Russian authorities following his detention, adding that the crewmembers on the Kisshin maru 31 had been unaware they had crossed Russia's sea border.

    The other two fishermen on the vessel at the time of the incident were released August 30 and handed over to Japan by Russian authorities.

    The incident strained relations between Russia and Japan, who have contested the ownership of the Kurils for over 60 years. Japan maintains that their seizure by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II was illegal, and the dispute has until now kept the two countries from signing a formal peace treaty.

    "Our position is that our laws should be respected, including by Japan's government," Lavrov said.

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