MOSCOW, January 9 (Itar-Tass) – Nigerian authorities said the Russian sailors detained in the country earlier this week can go home after they have given testimony and after a number of “legal formalities” have been completed, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday, January 9.
“Despite the energetic measures being taken by the Russian Foreign Ministry and the Russian Embassy in Nigeria to free the ship Myer Seadiver detained in the port of Lagos on October 19, 2012, and its crew of 15 Russian sailors, and contrary to the promises to allow our compatriots to return home before the New Year holidays given to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov by the head of the Nigerian foreign ministry, Olugbenga Ashiru, during a telephone conversation on December 21, 2012, the ship and its crew continue to be held by the Nigerian authorities,” the ministry said.
“On January 7, the Russian sailors were handed over by representatives of the regional command of the Nigerian Navy to the local police to complete the investigative procedures and organise, under a far-fetched pretext, a trial. They are being interrogated now in the presence of consular workers of the Russian Embassy. There is no court warrant on their arrest and no official charges have been brought against them so far,” the ministry said.
“The conditions of their detention are on the whole satisfactory and their treatment is tactful,” the ministry added.
“We hope that our Nigerian partners will keep their word this time and will release the Russian sailors within the shortest time possible without preconditions and further delays,” the ministry said. “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia will continue to press for the speediest return of our compatriots to Russia.”
Fifteen Russian sailors from the ship Myre Seadiver detained in Nigeria have been transferred to pre-trial detention cells at a police station pending investigation.
The Russian crew was handed over to police on Monday, January 7, after the completion of a preliminary investigation. The ship and the arms remain under arrest.
“The police have taken over the custody of the 15 Russians because the navy does not have the power to prosecute them,” Nigerian Navy spokesperson Jerry Omodara said. The Nigerian authorities detained the Myre Seadiver in the second half of October 2012 in Lagos due to the absence of permission for its stay in the country’s territorial waters.
Omodara said the ship had left the Cook Islands in the South Pacific and entered Nigeria’s waters without permission.
In late December 2012, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that the Nigerian authorities had decided to release the sailors. It said the decision had been prompted by the desire to “preserve the friendly atmosphere in bilateral relations with Russia and by humanitarian considerations”.
However, the fate of the ship is not clear. It is being held at the Navy’s Beecroft’s harbour in Apapa, Lagos, the coutnry’s economic capital and main seaport, pending the end of the investigation.
“We have to keep the ship because the police do not have the capacity to keep it. Both the vessel and weapons will be released as exhibits during the trial of the suspects,” Omodara said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said it would continue to press for the soonest release of the Russian sailors detained in Nigeria and their return home.