First Eight Russian Sailors to Come Back from South Africa

The first eight Russian sailors from the Argun tanker, which was impounded at South Africa's Capetown sea-port, will return to Russia's Primorye (Maritime) territory on April 28th.

Talking to a RIA Novosti correspondent on Thursday, Nikolai Sukhanov, spokesman for the Far Eastern regional organisation of the Russian sailors' labour union, noted that this list included crew members, who had filed lawsuits, and who had asked the labour union for help.

In his words, other sailors, who are being pressured by their Russian employer, haven't yet dared make this move.

A Capetown court will hear a case dealing with wage arrears to the Argun tanker's crew in August of 2003, Sukhanov noted.

The Argun tanker, which is part and parcel of the Russian Pacific fleet's auxiliary units, was leased over to a commercial company several years ago. The Argun has now been anchored in Capetown for several consecutive months. The lease-holder, i.e. the Vladivostok-based Oil-Compact company, stopped delivering food to the tanker's crew in October of 2002. The unfortunate sailors manage to survive with the help of humanitarian relief aid being provided by South African charitable organisations. Besides, the company now owes more than $600,000 in wages to the crew.

Meanwhile the Pacific fleet's military prosecutor's office is busy investigating all lease-contract aspects. Criminal proceedings have already been instituted in line with the Russian penal code's two articles, i.e. fraud and abuse of power.

According to its officials, investigators are trying to find out whether the tanker-lease contract was legal or not, and whether the concerned officials had acted legally.

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