Russia abandons search for fishermen

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Russia on Monday abandoned its search for at least 11 fishermen mssing since their vessel sank in heavy seas off Sakhalin Island three days ago.

An emergencies ministry spokesman told news agencies that the "active phase" of the search and rescue mission was over but that ships passing through the area would continue to be on the lookout for any signs of life or debris.

The Partner fishing boat sank on Friday after reporting in a dramatic radio message that the vessel was in difficulties and the crew would not be able to hold on for long.

"We are going under. Only one of the life rafts deployed, and even that one did not do so correctly," the captain said in a message that was later distributed by the federal fisheries agency.

The agency's chief Andrei Krainy told state television on Sunday that he was "100 percent certain that this was an illegal ship" because it was registered in Belize and sailing under the flag of Cambodia.

"We cannot possible track ships like that," he said, adding that there were between 11 and 14 people on board and that the vessel had sailed from Sakhalin Island.

In a separate operation, rescuers were still trying to free a fish processing vessel trapped in the ice with 348 people on board in the Sea of Okhotsk.

The vessel was one of three trapped during a storm on December 30, two of which have already been freed by icebreakers.

But news reports said the Sodruzhestvo fish processing vessel with was too wide to use the path cleared by the two icebreakers and that it would need a special rescue operation planned for later this week.

Sodruzhestvo was carrying a 75-day supply of food and water, ITAR-TASS reported.

© 2011 AFP

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