15:32 GMT +321 February 2019
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    Tokyo requests release of crew detained by Russia for poaching

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    TOKYO, January 28 (RIA Novosti) - Japan has demanded the immediate release of 10 merchant seaman detained on board a vessel by Russia for alleged crab poaching, Chief Cabinet Secretary Tateo Kawamura said on Wednesday.

    The crabbing vessel Yoshi Maru 38 was intercepted on Tuesday by the Russian Coast Guard near the northern coast of the Noto Peninsula on suspicion of illegal fishing in what Russia calls its exclusive economic zone.

    "The Foreign Ministry asked the Russian side to release the crew members and the ship at an early time under obligations of international law and from a humanitarian standpoint," Kawamura was quoted by Japan Today as saying during a press conference, adding that the crew was well.

    A Russian Federal Security Bureau spokeswoman in the Far East, Natalya Rondalyova, said, however, that the ship's captain did not have documentation proving the ship had permission to catch crab in the area.

    The ship owners, Hiyoshi Suisan, have dismissed Russia's claims and said the vessel may have inadvertently entered Russian waters after completing its fishing operations on Tuesday.

    According to Rondalyova, the Japanese vessel is now located in Russia's Far East port of Nakhodka.

    Confrontations over poaching between Russian authorities and Japanese fishing vessels are frequent in Russia's Far East, in August 2006 a Japanese fisherman was shot dead near the Kuril Islands when Russian border guards opened fire on his boat after it failed to stop.

    Russia and Japan have contested the ownership of the Kuril Islands since the end of WWII. As a result of the dispute, the two countries have never signed a formal peace treaty.

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