Thursday, January 19, 2006

Ukraine Seeks Control of Russian Naval Facilities

Ukrainian state authorities seized the Yalta lighthouse on January 13 from Russia's Black Sea Fleet, and a Ukrainian student organization is picketing the Russian radar station in Henychesk around the clock since January 15 with tacit approval from Kyiv authorities. The Ukrainian government wants Russia to agree to hand over by February all the 35 coastal installations (outside Sevastopol's bays) that Russia's Black Sea Fleet is using since 1997 without a legal basis.

Designated collectively as "hydrographic installations" and including mainly lighthouses and communications stations, these facilities are strewn along the Crimea's coasts and are manned by Russia Black Sea Fleet personnel. Kyiv seeks to transfer them to the Ukrainian Transport Ministry's Hydrographic Service for civilian use. Under the 1997 inter-state agreements, Russia's fleet is stationed in the Crimea until 2017 for a lease payment of just under $100 million annually. Yet the Russian side is failing to pay for rent and electricity at many of the "hydrographic installations," or is deeply in arrears on such payments.

The picket in Henychesk on the Azov Sea, amply televised in Ukraine, started one day after the Russia side had beefed up the guard by sending in 20 Marines from the main base in Sevastopol. As Ukraine's Ministry of Foreign Affairs pointed out in a statement, the deployment was illegal: under the 1997 agreements, any movement of troops and materiel of the Russian Black Sea Fleet may only take place with the Ukrainian authorities' approval. Compounding the violation of Ukrainian sovereignty, the guard hung up a sign, "Territory of the Russian Federation."

Read the rest here.

Remember that I said that the Gas War would get uglier? Well, here's the start of another round of it.

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