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Sunday, June 25, 2006

Russian Black Sea Fleet reports attempt to seize its building

MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) - The Russian Black Sea Fleet's press service reported Friday that an attempt was being made to seize a building housing its hydrographic service in Sevastopol, the fleet's main base in Ukraine's autonomy Crimea.

Ukrainian bailiffs, Interior Ministry and other officials have arrived at the building, trying to hand over an order authorizing the seizure of the building and other hydrographic facilities run by the Black Sea Fleet.

"The command of the Black Sea Fleet views the bailiffs' actions as an attempt to illegally seize the fleet's property using the judicial system," the press service said.

Russian naval officials said such actions ran counter to a bilateral inter-state commission's decision to continue talks on issues related to the Russian base's further stay in the Crimea.

They said the incident aimed to "worsen the situation around the fleet's deployment on Ukrainian territory."

Russia's Black Sea Fleet uses a range of naval facilities in the Crimea under a 1997 agreement that allowed Russia to stay in the neighboring former Soviet republic for rent of $93 million per year.

The fleet is scheduled to withdraw in 2017, but Ukraine has recently voiced concerns that Russia is not paying enough for the facilities and also demanded that a new agreement be signed on inventorizing the base facilities. Russia has said it will make no concessions over rent or withdrawing the fleet but talks have stalled.

The fleet's command has stepped up security at the facilities and sent protests to the Sevastopol's administration and prosecutor, demanding that the bailiffs' unlawful actions be stopped.
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