February 22, 2009:
The Russian Coast Guard sank a Chinese coastal freighter, the New Star, on February 15th, after the ship left the Russian Pacific port of Nakhodka without permission. The New Star arrived in Nakhodka nearly three weeks ago, with a cargo of rice. But the firm that purchased the rice complained that the cargo was of low quality, and demanded a lower price. The Russian buyer went to local officials, and got the government to forbid the New Star from leaving until the matter was settled. Caught in the middle of this dispute between the Chinese rice broker and the Russian buyer, the Hong Kong owner of the New Star ordered the captain to leave port anyway. When the Russian Coast Guard was notified, they sent a patrol ship out to bring the New Star back. The Russian patrol boat caught up with the New Star, about 80 kilometers from Nakhodka, and ordered the Chinese ship to return to port. The Chinese ship refused, and eventually the Russians opened fire with a 30mm auto-cannon. After several hours, 515 30mm shells were fired into the hull of the New Star, causing it to take on water and begin to sink. While getting off the New Star, eight of the crew died when one of the two life rafts flipped over in rough seas. The other eight members of the crew were picked up by a Russian Coast Guard ship.
The Russians blame the Chinese ship captain, but China wants an investigation. With that in mind, the Russian Coast Guard now says the New Star was suspected of smuggling as well.