North Korea detains crew of Russian fishing vessel

SEOUL (REUTERS) - North Korea has detained 15 Russian and two South Korean crew of a fishing vessel for violating entry regulations, the Russian Embassy in North Korea said on Wednesday (July 24).

They were detained on July 17 by border guards, and are currently being held in a hotel in the city of Wonsan, the Russian embassy in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang said in a post on its Facebook page.

The ship, identified by the embassy as the Xianghailin-8, owned by the Northeast Fishery Company out of Nevelsk, Russia, was also at Wonsan.

According to the embassy, North Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the crew was detained for "violating the rules of entry and stay in the territory of (North Korea)".

South Korea's Unification Ministry in charge of inter-Korean affairs said on Wednesday that the two South Korean sailors are safe and it has been striving to secure their freedom through consultations with their families, North Korea and Russia.

On Monday, Russian consular officials were allowed to meet with the crew, who they described as healthy.

The Russian embassy said it was in "constant contact" with the North Korean government and taking all necessary measures to resolve the situation.

Russia has maintained relatively close ties with North Korea, and has continued to be a regular trade partner.

South Korea has sought to ease tensions with its northern neighbour, but South Koreans are still banned by their government from going to North Korea without Seoul's permission.