Russian Foreign Ministry hopes for prompt release of Russian sailors held in Nigeria

The Russian Foreign Ministry is hoping the Nigerian authorities will keep their promise and unconditionally release the Russian sailors who were detained in the Lagos port on October 19, 2012.

"We are hoping that our Nigerian partners will keep their promise and promptly release the Russian sailors without any addition conditions or further delay," a report posted on the Web site of the Russian diplomatic mission on Wednesday says.

"The Russian Foreign Ministry will continue seeking the prompt release of our compatriots to Russia," the ministry said.

"Despite the energetic efforts made by the Russian Foreign Ministry and the Russian embassy in Nigeria to release the Myre Seadiver and its crew of 15 who were detained in the Lagos port on October 19, 2012, and also despite the promises to allow our compatriots to return to Russia before the New Year holidays made to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov by Nigerian Foreign Minister Olugbenga Ashiru in a phone conversation on Dec.21, the vessel and crew continue to be held by the Nigerian authorities," the report says.

"On Jan. 7, the Russian sailors were handed over to representatives of the regional command of the Nigerian Navy to the local police for the completion of investigative measures and the organization of a trial under false pretexts," the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

The Russians are now being questioned in the presence of consular officials, the ministry said.

"There is no court ruling to arrest then and no official charges have been filed. The conditions in which the Russian sailors are held are generally satisfactory and they are being treated correctly," the ministry said.

According to the Nigerian authorities, the situation is a matter of national security, saying they need to complete the investigation into the circumstances surrounding the entrance by the vessel of the Nigerian territorial waters and the fact that it was allegedly carrying undeclared firearms and ammunition used by the security company Moran Security Group.

The Nigerian authorities are saying the sailors will be able to leave Nigeria after they give the necessary evidence and after the "legal formalities" have been completed.

The vessel, which was carrying a Russian crew of 15, was seized in the Lagos port on October 19, 2012. According to Nigerian media, it was carrying 14 AK-47s, 42 rifles, and over 8,500 rounds of ammunition. The vessel is now being held at a Nigerian naval base.

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