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July 26, 2002

Owner, two others, jailed for violence against crew member
An ITF (International Transport Federation) inspector has helped to send three men to jail for running a regime of fear and violence on board a ship docked in Denmark.

According to the ITF, two men sent to the ship by the owner of the Russian-owned, Belize-flagged Salus were yesterday sentenced to four months in jail for severe violence against a crew member who had complained to the ITF about conditions on board. The ship's owner was jailed for six months for ordering the attack.

Sentence was passed at 6:00 PM yesterday. The two also have to pay legal expenses of DKK 18,000 (US$2,422), while the owner has to pay DKK 25,000 (US$3364) and DKK 4,500 (US$605) compensation to the victim of the beating he organized.

According to the ITF, the Salus arrived in Ronne, Denmark on October 17 last year, since when it has been used to freeze sprats for sale in Russia.

In May this year the ITF became involved when told by crew members that none of them had been paid since arrival.

On July 3, says the ITF, Vladimirs Zaitsev, managing director of Kaliningrad-based ship operators Baltic-Viz Ltd, was charged by the police for punching ITF inspector Kjartan Gudmundsson and trying to throw him off the gangway. Zaitsev was accompanied by a bodyguard at the time.

The next day five crew members went to the police to report that Zaitsev had called a meeting in which he pressured all 24 crew to sign a declaration against the ITF. According to ITF, he told them that two new 'crew members' would shortly arrive who would "cut out their lungs and make them swim in their own blood" if they didn't co-operate.

On July 5, two men, described by Kjartan Gudmundsson as "built like gorillas", arrived claiming they were looking for jobs as able seamen. Two hours after their arrival able seaman Aleksander Bolchakov disembarked to speak to Kjartan Gudmundsson, who testified in court that when Bolchakov returned to the vessel he was pushed around by the two new arrivals, while Zaitsev and his bodyguard blocked his escape.

Gudmundsson told the authorities what happened next: "the two 'able seamen" threw Bolchakov to the deck and started beating and kicking him. When Zaychev saw that a bystander on the dock had a camera he ordered them to take Bolchakov into the bridge, where I could hear the beating continuing and Bolchakov screaming. I phoned the police, who sent two cars immediately - thankfully, I had warned them in advance that trouble might be brewing."

The police found Aleksander Bolcahkov locked in a cabin with tape wrapped round his mouth and head, his arms taped behind his back, and his feet taped together. Gudmunsson, who accompanied the officers, said that it took them five minutes to free him, and his mouth was covered in blood. "He was fighting for breath. If the police hadn't arrived so quickly I'm not sure he'd be alive now," he said. Bolchakov was hospitalized overnight, and is still receiving treatment.

Kjartan Gudmundsson commented: "There was a reign of terror on this ship. The speedy assistance of the Danish police headed off a serious threat this time, but we are worried that an attempt could be made to try and intimidate the crew members' families. We're making sure that the Seafarers' Union of Russia is kept up to date about all developments, so that it will be ready to help them if that happens."

The ITF is continuing to push for justice for the crew of the Salus and for the owed wages to be paid to them. The crew is being supported by sympathy actions carried out by the Danish confederation of trade unions.

Vladimirs Zaitsev is managing director of Kaliningrad-based Baltic-Viz Ltd, the operator/bareboat charterer of the Salus. The registered owner is Salus Corporation of Belize (The ITF says that Zaitsev stated in court that he is the ship's owner). The vessel was under time charter by the Norwegian owner of the cargo onboard, Høyskel & Wennevold.

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