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North Koreans threatened Russian yacht crew with violence, report says

Five Russians who were detained and released over the weekend were accused of being South Korean spies.

By
Elizabeth Shim

SEOUL, May 18 (UPI) -- North Koreans who intercepted a Russian yacht crew threw rocks and chairs at the athletes, a crewmember said.

The five Russians who were detained by authorities for about 24 hours were sailing in international waters Saturday about 80 miles from the North Korea coast when they were intercepted by a North Korean fishing boat, Russian news agency TASS reported.

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The Russian boat tried to escape, but the North Korean crew threatened them and came onboard, according to first mate of the yacht Sergey Domovidov, Sputnik news agency reported.

The rusted North Korean boat had about 40 crewmembers. Upon seeing the Russian yacht, they yelled, "Stop, Russians" and sailed closer, Domovidov said.

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The North Koreans also tossed rocks, chairs and flasks at the Russian crew, causing damage to the vessel, the Russian crewmember said.

For about two hours, the Russians tried to escape, but the North Korean boat outmaneuvered the yacht. The North Koreans then climbed onboard and the yacht was dragged to the North Korean port of Kimchaek in North Hamgyong Province, according to the report.

While in North Korean custody, local authorities accused Domovidov and his crew of being South Korean spies.

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Domovidov said the North Koreans used metal detectors to inspect crew possessions and confiscated all mobile phones.

The incident created at least $10,000 in damages, Domovidov said.

The Elfin yacht was returning home on Saturday after participating in an international regatta in the South Korean port city of Busan.

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The crew was released after a Russian diplomat in North Korea, Yury Bochkarev, met with North Korean guards.

Bochkarev was told the yacht was towed "just in case," owing to tense relations between the two Koreas.

Pyongyang has yet to issue an official response, a Russian embassy spokesman said.

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