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Russian Refugee Boat Returns to Monrovia

June 18, 1996

MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) _ A Russian freighter last seen drifting and reported to be running out of water for 450 refugees on board returned to Monrovia today.

The Zolotitsa showed up in the Liberian capital at midday, after 22 days at sea trying to find another country that would accept its passengers, said Peter Sebok, the owner of a shipping company at the port.

Red Cross and other aid officials were assisting the exhausted passengers.

``I’m told they’re in pretty bad condition,″ said Sebok.

It appeared the Russian-registered boat, which was reported stalled off the West African coast Saturday, managed to restart its engine and steam into Monrovia on its own.

The Zolotitsa left Liberia on May 26 to escape fighting in the Monrovia. It was refused entry by several neighboring countries and last received supplies June 3, when 6,500 gallons of drinking water were put on board at Lome, Togo.

The Zolotitsa was the second refugee boat to run into problems since fighting between rival factions exploded in Monrovia on April 6. A Nigerian ship, the Bulk Challenge, nearly sank with 1,800 people on board before Ghana’s government bowed to international pressure and let the people disembark there last month.

The Zolotitsa also tried to dock in Ghana but was forced out to sea repeatedly by Ghanaian Navy boats. Like other governments in the region, Ghana’s has said it doesn’t want to become the dumping ground for Liberians whose 6 1/2-year war has already sent hundreds of thousands of Liberians into neighboring countries.

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