Russian sailors Peter Shishkovich and Alexander Shagovik, both from St. Petersburg, who were released from an immigration-service detention center July 22, are now returning to Russia aboard an Aeroflot passenger airliner (flight SU-322), which took from Los Angeles, Ca. at 5.30 a.m. Moscow time today. The plane is scheduled to arrive in Moscow at 5.30 p.m. Moscow time.
This was disclosed to RIA Novosti by Vladimir Nebyvayev, Russia's consul in San Francisco; US authorities transferred both sailors under his jurisdiction the other day, with Nebyvayev taking them to the L. A. airport and placing them onboard the plane.
According to the Russian diplomat, both men, whose foreign passports had expired a long time ago, were issued return certificates.
Shishkovich and Shagovik are not feeling well just because they had spent 39 months in a US prison; still they are holding fast: and they want to return to St. Petersburg as soon as possible, Nebyvayev added.
The Government of the United States has paid for their tickets, Georgy Borisenko, a counsellor with the Russian Embassy in Washington, told RIA Novosti.
Both Shishkovich and Shagovik were arrested in April 2001, while sailing together with a Ukrainian-Russian crew aboard the Zvezda Maru merchant ship off the Mexican coast. US Coast Guard officers found 12 tons of cocaine, while searching that ship.
The ship's captain, as well as several Ukrainian sailors, were pronounced guilty and convicted. However, a San Diego jury cleared Shishkovich and Shagovik, who were the only Russians aboard the Zvezda Maru, on all charges July 14, 2004.