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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 November 2005, 12:37 GMT
Criminal probe into Barents chase
The Elektron chase sparked a diplomatic incident
The captain of a Russian trawler which was at the centre of a Barents Sea chase with two Norwegian fish officials on board, could face criminal charges.

Valery Yarantsev is being investigated on suspicion of illegal fishing and illegal confinement, the local Russian prosecutor general's office said.

The trawler, the Elektron, was boarded by the inspectors near Svalbard islands on suspicion of illegal fishing.

But instead of heading to Norway as directed, it fled to Russian waters.

It was chased by Norwegian coastguards until it reached Russian territory.

The two inspectors spent five days on board the trawler before they were handed back to the Norwegian authorities by a Russian rescue ship.

The prosecutor of the northern Murmansk region, where the Elektron returned to, confirmed a criminal case was being opened on the basis of information supplied by Norway.

"According to the Norwegians, a check revealed a number of serious violations," a statement said.

Ongoing dispute

The incident began on 15 October, when the Elektron was fishing in waters claimed by Norway.

The Norwegian authorities claim the Elektron was using illegal fishing equipment which violated quota rules on fishing catches.

The trawler was directed by the two inspectors to go towards the Norwegian port of Tromso, but unexpectedly changed its course towards Russia.

Although both sides sought to play down the incident, it has rekindled an ongoing dispute between Russia and Norway over fishing rights in the Barents Sea, the BBC's Lars Bevanger says.

Norway claims sovereignty over the waters where the Elektron was apprehended but Russia and other fishing nations disagree. They argue Norway has no right to detain foreign vessels in that area even if they are breaking fishing regulations.

Norwegian forces have detained Russian vessels before, but the most dramatic event so far involved an Icelandic trawler in 1994 which was forced to stop when a Norwegian coastguard vessel fired live rounds at it.

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