Yuri Kurnakov, chairman of the Vladivostok committee of the Sailors' Trade Union, has demanded an end to "the ungrounded and invented trial" in Canada. Under trial are three Russian sailors from the Virgo tanker, flying the Cyprus flag. The Canadian authorities "have for almost a year been illegally holding" the sailors from Nakhodka in Russia's Far East, he told RIA Novosti.
The United States' authorities charge captain Vladimir Ivanov, navigator Dmitri Bogdanov and steersman Mikhail Gerasimenko of breaching the Maritime Regulations. On the night from August 5 to 6, 2001 the Virgo collided with the American trawler Starbound.
On the tragic night an unidentified cargo ship at a high speed rammed into the small trawler Starbound 130 miles away from Cape Town, Massachusetts. The trawler sank and four of its crewmen died.
The cargo ship, rudely violating the international Maritime Regulations, hastily left the site of the tragedy. The American authorities turned to Canada for help in discovering it.
The Virgo arrived to a Canadian port from the collision zone and immediately got into the list of suspects. In Canada the American coast guard inspected the Virgo tanker but found no signs of collision. It laid no claims to the crew of the Virgo and its owner.
This notwithstanding, the Virgo was detained by the Canadian coast guard on August 9 in connection with the investigations into the tragic incident, which happened near the coast of the United States.
Lawyers of the accused have repeatedly said that neither American, nor Canadian authorities have presented any substantial proofs of the tanker's running into the small trawler. Moreover, at the moment of death of the Starbound over a dozen ships from different countries were found in the disaster zone.
The lawyers say that the American authorities continue groundlessly to insist on the extradition of the three Russian sailors.
Under the International Maritime Law Convention, the situation in which the Russian sailors are found can be heard in the court of only two states -- the owner of the ship /here, Cyprus/ or the crew's home country /here, Russia/.
Eight fruitless hearings on the extradition of the Virgo crew to the American authorities have already taken place in the court of Saint John's in Canada.
Simultaneously, the defense still does not know what proofs the prosecution has because the American side is refusing to present them in spite of inquiries from the Russian Prosecutor General's Office, transport and foreign ministries.
Experts say that a lawful way out of the present situation is possible only in case the Russian side begins its own investigation and the three sailors from Nakhodka return to Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has refused to go to the 77th UN General Assembly in September