A Russian yacht has been detained by North Korean coastguards in the Sea of Japan with five crew on board and towed in to land, Russian officials said on Saturday.
“The North Korean side has communicated that the yacht has been taken to the port of Kimchaek,” Igor Agafonov, a foreign ministry official in the far-eastern city of Vladivostok told state-run RIA Novosti news agency.
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“The crew is alive and well. We are still waiting for an explanation from North Korea as to the reasons for the detention,” 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 coastguards late 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,” 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” 160 kilometres 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.