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China demands answers over warship attack, lost seamen

CHINA said yesterday that it was "shocked" by the sinking of a cargo vessel carrying Chinese sailors and had summoned the Russian ambassador to push for a complete investigation into why a warship fired on the freighter.

China also accused Russia of being too slow in trying to rescue the eight sailors, including seven Chinese, who were lost at sea.

Deputy Foreign Minister Li Hui also told Russian Ambassador Sergey Razov that China "cannot accept the incident and expresses strong dissatisfaction," according to a statement posted on the Foreign Ministry's Website.

Li called on Russia to do its best to search for the missing crew members, who were reported missing after the freighter New Star sank in waters near Vladivostok.

On Thursday, Li summoned the Russian ambassador and urged his country to complete an investigation into the incident as soon as possible and to mount its best effort to search for the missing seamen.

China also urged Russia to "properly settle" the three rescued Chinese sailors.

Razov expressed regret over the casualties. He said the Russian government is investigating the incident and will inform China of the results.

Russian news agencies reported earlier that Russian border guards opened fire last weekend on the cargo ship as it sailed off the Russian port city and that it later sank in a storm.

Russia's Interfax news agency said the New Star, carrying a crew of 16 sailors from China and Indonesia, was fleeing border guards in the Sea of Japan when the shooting occurred. The guards were pursuing the ship because it had left the port of Nakhodka without notifying authorities, the report said.

Interfax yesterday quoted Russia's Foreign Ministry as saying that the captain of the ship was to blame because he violated border laws and refused to stop his vessel when warning shots were fired.

"We regret the tragic consequences of these events. However, we lay the whole responsibility for what happened on the New Star captain, who acted extremely irresponsibly," Interfax quoted ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko as saying.

Interfax earlier said the New Star had turned around after being shot at but started sinking as a storm struck.

The sailors jumped into two lifeboats, but strong waves overturned one of them and border guards were able only to rescue eight crew members, it said.

Interfax said rescuers had searched the freezing waters for the bodies of the missing sailors. Russia announced yesterday that it wrapped up the search for missing crew.


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