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Ukraine: Detained Crew's Location Unknown

By Serhij Drachuk

Prague, 13 December 1996 (RFE/RL) - Ukraine's consul in Georgia says that the current location of the crew of a Ukrainian cargo vessel taken into custody last week by Russian border guards is unknown.

Pavel Tkachuk told RFE/RL that Ukrainian authorities only learned of the incident by chance, since no notification was provided by Russian or Georgian authorities.

Tkachuk says Russian border guards arrested the captain and the 10-man crew of the tug boat Almaz last week when it docked at Georgia's Black Sea port of Batumi. He says the ship was there to pick up tangerines and lemons. Our correspondent reports that the privately owned vessel is based in the Crimean city of Sevastopol.

Tkachuk says the crew was detained aboard the vessel until Wednesday when he says "a Russian secret service plane took them away."

General Mikhail Krylovsky, the commander of the Russian border guards in Georgia, confirmed the seizure of the vessel and said it was lawful under a joint Russian-Georgian agreement. He refused to elaborate and Border Guard headquarters in Moscow had no comment.

Tkachuk says Ukraine has filed protests with the Russian Embassy in Tbilisi, and complained to the Georgian Foreign Ministry and prosecutor general.