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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Ukraine says no Russia control of Black Sea facilities

KIEV, September 18 (RIA Novosti) - Ukraine issued its latest diplomatic barrage against Russia's military presence on the Black Sea Tuesday when it said its former Soviet stable mate had no right to control infrastructure, navigation and support facilities there. A court in the Crimean port of Sevastopol, where Russia's Black Sea Fleet is based, ruled earlier that the fleet should surrender lighthouses and other property, which have been at the center of an increasingly acrimonious dispute, along the Crimean coast. And the Foreign Ministry backed the ruling, saying Russia had no ownership rights under intergovernmental agreements.

"Armed units of the Russian Black Sea Fleet or any other agencies of the Russian Federation are in no way authorized to bear any responsibility for the safety of navigation or engage in any ship navigation or pilot operations in Ukrainian territorial waters," the ministry said. An agreement signed by Ukraine and Russia in 1997 divided the Soviet Black Sea Fleet, allowing the Russian Navy to remain in Sevastopol until 2017, at an annual rent of $93 million. After Gazprom sought a significant increase in the price it charged Ukraine for Russian natural gas at the end of last year, Kiev threatened to increase the rent to $1.8 billion. It also demanded the Russian Navy surrender the lighthouses and other property, claiming they were not part of the fleet agreement.

And the Ukrainian ministry criticized Russia's refusal to comply with the Sevastopol court ruling, saying this position is in conflict with the rules of international law. Russia's Foreign Ministry earlier urged the Ukrainian side "to refrain from any action that could exacerbate the already complicated situation around navigation and hydrographic support facilities in the Black and Azov Seas, and to continue the search for solutions to outstanding problems exclusively through negotiations."
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