BEIJING, July 18: Russian coastguards have seized a Chinese fishing boat and detained 17 sailors after reportedly opening fire on the vessel, state media and consular officials said on Wednesday.

The sailors are being held for fishing illegally and have been taken to the eastern Russian port of Nakhodka for “investigation”, said a statement on the website of China's consulate in the eastern city of Khabarovsk.

The consulate quoted Russian media as saying that the coastguards discovered the Chinese vessel in Russian waters on Tuesday, and fired weapons after encountering resistance from the Chinese crew.

No one on board has died and media reports that one individual is missing are not accurate, the statement said, adding that an official has travelled to Nakhodka to investigate the situation.

The state Xinhua news agency also said a second Chinese fishing vessel carrying 19 sailors had been seized, although this could not be confirmed. Both ships were from the city of Weihai in China's eastern Shandong province, it said.

Chinese government officials could not immediately be reached for comment, but the state-run Global Times said in an editorial that the incident was “unacceptable”.

“We don't believe the Russian border patrol authorities specifically target Chinese ships. But it is unacceptable, regardless of what country's ship they were aiming at,” said the paper.

“By creating fear through firing at civilian ships, Russia is displaying a wrong image.” Ties between Russia and China have strengthened in recent years as the giant neighbours, both veto-wielding permanent members of the UN Security Council, have sought to block Western-backed action on Iran and Syria.—AFP

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