Norway to hold arrested Russian ships until they guarantee fines’ payment

Norwegian authorities said Tuesday that owners of two Russian ships that were seized on allegations of fishing violations will have to post a 5 million kronor (US$765,000; Ђ640,000) deposit to guarantee the payment of fines before they are released.

Rune Hansen, the vice governor of the Svalbard islands where the ships are being held, said the actual fines for the Kapitan Gorbachev and Dmitry Pokramovich will be announced on Wednesday. The fines are likely to be smaller than the deposit, Hansen said.

The owner of the Kapitan Gorbachev will have to pay 2 million kronor (US$305,000; Ђ255,000), while the owner of the Dmitry Pokramovich must post a 3 million kronor (US$460,000; Ђ385,000) guarantee, he said. That money will be returned once the fines have been paid, he said.

Viktor Loshchevsky, the owner of the Kapitan Gorbachev, denied that his ship had violated any regulations, and said he would reject any fine from Norway, Russian news agency Interfax reported Tuesday. In 1977, Norway expanded its fisheries management zone around Svalbard in hopes of preventing overfishing. Russia rejects Norwegian claims to the area.

The fishing clash is the latest in a string of Barents Sea incidents that have strained the relations between Norway and Russia. Last week, two Norwegian coast guard inspectors were trapped aboard a Russian fishing trawler that fled to Russia after its crew was accused of fishing illegally off Norway. The two spent five days aboard the trawler Elektron before being released.

The ship's crew was arrested by Russian authorities and could face charges in both Norway and Russia. A.M.

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