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No Charges Brought Against Russians Who Shot Japanese Fisherman

No criminal case will be opened against Russian border guards who detained a Japanese vessel in a fatal incident almost two weeks ago, the chief military prosecutor's office quoted by RIA Novosti said Monday.

A row broke out August 16 between Moscow and Tokyo after the border guards shot dead a Japanese crewmember on the vessel near the Kuril Islands. Russian officials said the vessel was suspected of illegally fishing for valuable crab in Russian territorial waters and that border guards had fired warning shots only after it refused to stop.

"A criminal case has not been opened because of a lack of corpus delicti in the border guards' actions," a spokesman said.

The prosecutor's office said the actions of the border guards were lawful.

A criminal case was launched against Sakashita Noboru, the vessel's captain, August 17. Tatiana Kutuzova, an aide to the prosecutor in the Far East region of Sakhalin, said Noboru would stay in Russia until the end of trial.

"The criminal case against Sakashita Noboru is scheduled to be sent to the South Kuril District Court no later than September 7, 2006," she said. "There are no grounds to hand over Sakashita Noboru to the Japanese side until he is tried by a [Russian] court."

She also said the two other members of the vessel's crew were accused of violating the administrative border and the vessel was currently under arrest.

Japan protested the death of Mitsujiro Morita, 35. Russia said it regretted the incident but added that responsibility also rested with Japanese authorities for failing to address the poaching problem after Moscow had repeatedly highlighted it.

Relations between Russia and Japan have long been strained over the Kurils. Japan maintains their seizure by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II was illegal and the dispute has kept the two countries from signing a formal peace treaty.

A total of 30 fishing boats and 210 Japanese crewmembers were seized by Russia in the disputed waters between 1994 and 2005. Seven fishermen were injured when Russian patrolmen fired on them.

© MosNews

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