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Japanese Diplomat In Russia Seeking Fishermen's Release

Russia and Japan are still technically at war due to Moscow's 1945 seizure of the islands (ITAR-TASS) August 18, 2006 -- Japan's Senior Vice Foreign Minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki is in Moscow today seeking the release of three detained Japanese fishermen and the body of a fourth who was killed by Russian border guards this week.

The incident took place on August 16 in Russia's Pacific territorial waters near the disputed southern Kurile Islands, which Japan calls its Northern Territories.

One Japanese crab fisherman was shot to death when a Russian patrol boat opened fire on his ship. The border guards seized the boat, accusing the crew of poaching, smuggling, and illegal entry into Russian territorial waters.

Tokyo says the ship was in Japanese waters at the time of the shooting.

Japanese authorities are protesting Russia's response to the alleged poaching as too severe, and say the incident could harm relations.

Meanwhile, a strong earthquake jolted the eastern Russian region of Sakhalin in the Pacific Ocean today, causing some minor injuries. Some structural damage to buildings and waterpipes was also reported.

The tremor was measured at a magnitude of 6.1, and its epicenter was some 20 kilometers southwest of Sakhalin Island. Meanwhile, another quake with a magnitude of 5.9 shook the eastern side of Kamchatka. No injuries were reported.

(AFP, ITAR-TASS, AP, Interfax)