Russian yacht with 5 crew members on board detained by North Korea: Moscow

MOSCOW (AFP) - A Russian yacht has been detained by North Korean coast guards in the Sea of Japan, also known as East Sea, with five crew members on board and towed in to land, Russian officials said on Saturday (May 14).

"The North Korean side has communicated that the yacht has been taken to the port of Kimchaek," Mr Igor Agafonov, a Foreign Ministry official in the far-eastern city of Vladivostok told state-run RIA Novosti news agency.

"The crew is alive and well. We are still waiting for an explanation from North Korea as to the reasons for the detention," Mr Agafonov said, adding that diplomats were seeking permission to visit the crew.

Earlier, an unnamed official at the Russian embassy in Pyongyang told TASS news agency that the sailboat Elfin was detained by North Korean coast guards late on Friday with five people on board as it was sailing from a competition in the South Korean port of Busan to Vladivostok.

 

"The embassy... has handed over a note to the North Korean side demanding the immediate release of the crew," Mr Denis Samsonov, a spokesman for the Russian mission in North Korea, told RIA Novosti.

On Friday, the vice-president of the regional sailing federation Yevgeny Khromchenko wrote on Facebook that the vessel had been stopped by "North Korean fishermen" 85 nautical miles (160km) from shore and was being towed in to land.

Russia shares a short land border with North Korea and enjoys relatively friendly ties with the country's reclusive Stalinist regime.