Russian and Ukrainian diplomats will join efforts to seek the release of the crew of a cargo vessel accused of a murder in the Congo, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday, RIA Novosti reported.

The 23-member crew of the Island of Luck vessel, including 15 Ukrainians and four Russians, was detained on October 20 in Matadi, the chief sea port of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Congolese police have accused the crew of murdering a local resident and beating several others.

The vessel brought 12 metric tons of rice worth $12,000 to Matadi on October 4. When preparing to release the ship from port, Congolese officials found three locals in the water near the vessel. The suspected illegal migrants were allegedly beaten by the crew and thrown overboard. A fourth reportedly drowned.

However, no traces of violence were found on three of the Congolese men, while the body of the fourth was buried without an autopsy on October 22.

The president of the Association of Sea Captains in the Russian Far East, Pyotr Osichansky, said the Russian sailors had appealed to Russian authorities for assistance in order to return home.

"The passports have been seized from the crew," Osichansky said.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said on its website on Tuesday that "the Russian Embassy in Kinshasa [the Congolese capital] is keeping the situation under control."

A Russian embassy source told RIA Novosti that no official charges had yet been brought against the crew and the Ukrainian members of the crew were the chief suspects.

A spokesman for the Victoria Oceanway Ltd., the operator of the ship, said Ukrainian diplomats had been informed of the situation and that the Ukrainian ambassador was likely to arrive in Kinshasa later on Tuesday.


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