The northwestern city of Murmansk has begun raising funds in support of the sailors who have been detained in the Atlantic archipelago of Cape Verde since February 1 on suspicion of smuggling nearly 10 tons of cocaine aboard their vessel, officials say.
"There is this notion of maritime fraternity, which is why I am calling on all heads of commercial navigation companies and fishing organizations in our city to join the fund-raising campaign to help the Murmansk sailors," Yury Krokhmal, head of the Murmansk Foundation charity, said on March 16.
He said nine of the 12 sailors being detained are from Murmansk.
Aleksei Veller, a former mayor of Murmansk and now a lawmaker in the State Duma, said he has been in touch with the Russian ambassador in Cape Verde and has kept families of the sailors informed of developments.
The Russian Foreign Ministry on March 15 said it was keeping watch on the situation and that the sailors had made “no specific complaints or requests, including the terms of their incarceration conditions.”
Police in Cape Verde on February 1 said they had seized nearly 10 tons of cocaine and arrested the Russian sailors aboard a vessel docked in the capital.
Police officials said the drugs were seized during the night after the cargo ship ESER docked at the port of Praia for legal reasons following the death of a crew member. The vessel had been traveling to Morocco from South America.
Cape Verde, a group of islands off Africa’s west coast, has long battled gangs trafficking Latin American cocaine to Europe through West Africa.