Russia has detained a Lithuanian fishing vessel and it's being towed to Murmansk Port, Russian and Lithuanian officials said on Friday.
Viktoro Vlasenkos nuotr.
© "Klaipėda"

"We can confirm that a vessel has been detained and it is now being towed to the port. We are now looking into the details," Rasa Jakilaitienė, spokeswoman for Lithuania's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told BNS.

Darius Nienius, head of the Agriculture Ministry's Fisheries Department, told BNS the vessel, called Jūrų Vilkas (Sea Wolf), was detained for entering Russia's territorial waters, but the detention itself took place in international waters.

"We are now looking into the whole circumstances and details as it’s a very recent incident. But judging from the data from our satellite system, the vessel was detained in international waters and not in Russia's economic zone. Judging from what we have, the allegation is that it had entered Russia's economic zone and carried out fishing activities there.

"The satellites communication system, which is used by both the administrative commission (The International Boundary and Water Commission – BNS) and European Fisheries Control Agency, as well as our inspectors, shows that the vessel entered on 8 September and that was a short entry for an hour. They could have not done anything there in such a short period of time," he told BNS.

The ministry's representative said that, in Lithuania's opinion, Russia has violated international commitments. "We are stating the fact that, in our opinion, the vessel was detained in territorial (international – BNS) waters in violation of international commitments and agreements. So from that perspective the fact becomes rather ambiguous. (…) If it had been detained in Russia's economic zone, that would have been obvious," Nienius told BNS.

According to Nienius, the vessel crew consists of 28 people, including 3 Lithuanian citizens. He did not have information on the nationalities of other crew members. "They are probably non-EU citizens," he said.

According to Interfax news agency, the Lithuanian vessel was detained after trying to hide in Norway's economic zone.

Foreign minister: Lithuania will send a note

The captain of a Lithuanian fishing vessel recently detained by Russia was removed by force, Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevičius says, adding that Lithuania will send a diplomatic note to Russia over the incident.

"The Lithuanian citizens were removed as they refused to obey but we have no details on how they are being kept," Linkevičius told journalists on Friday.

He said he had summoned the Russian ambassador.

"The Russian ambassador was summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and asked to explain the circumstances. Lithuania demanded the release of the crew as it was a violation of international law and all rules. We have also turned to the European Commission and the European Fisheries Control Agency and we will follow the information, monitor the process and demand the release of the crew and the vessel. We want to collect all data and send a diplomatic note to Russia," the minister said.

According to Linkevičius, the vessel was fishing in international waters.

"It was crab-fishing in international waters. The satellite system monitors the presence of every vessel with hourly precision, so we can claim that the vessel was in international waters. The incident started after a ship under the Russian flag approached and armed people demanded that the Lithuanian vessel heads to Murmansk Port. When the vessel command and captain refused to do so, they were removed by force and the vessel is being transported to Murmansk Port," the minister said.

In his words, if Russian media reports are true and the vessel was detained by border guards, they did not have the right to do so.

"It's rather strange to me that Russian media reports state that border guards detained it as they did not have the right to do so in international waters, where they don't have jurisdiction," the minister said.

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