MOSCOW (AFP) – Border guards in Russia repeatedly fired on a Chinese and Indonesian-crewed cargo ship that hit trouble off its Far Eastern coast, officials said Thursday, sparking concern in Beijing.
China called Russia to conduct a full investigation into the ship's mishap at the weekend, which resulted in the feared drowning of eight of the crew of 10 Chinese seamen and six Indonesians.
Officials said the ship, the Sierra Leone-flagged New Star, had left the Russian Far Eastern port of Nakhodka without authorisation after being sequestered there for smuggling, and repeatedly ignored warnings to stop.
"The investigation into the shooting on the foreign ship is being led by military prosecutors," Alexander Selentsov, an official from prosecutors in the Far Eastern city of Vladivostok, told the Interfax news agency.
"The captain of the New Star was repeatedly asked to stop through radio communication, lights, a flag and warning shots. But the foreign ship did not stop," he added.
He said border guards then received an order from the Federal Security Service (FSB) "to open fire on the ship".
"The order was carried out after warnings on the radio. Only then did the New Star stop and returned to the port of Nakhodka," he added.
The Chinese foreign ministry statement said its consulate in Russia has raised the issue with the Russian embassy in China.
It "called on the Russian side... to quickly begin an investigation into the causes of the incident."
The Kommersant newspaper reported that 500 rounds were fired at the bow and stern of the vessel. The survivors claimed the firing caused the ship's problems rather than bad weather, it reported.
Interfax said that on its forced return to the port of Nakhodka the ship hit a storm, forcing its crew to disembark onto two eight-person rescue boats.
Russian border guards managed to rescue all the occupants of one of the rescue boats who were taken to hospital for treatment, Russian news agencies reported.
The other is believed to have sunk, with all of its eight sailors feared drowned.
A search for the missing is continuing.