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27 Aug, 2009 09:03

Ukrainian officials attempt seizure of Russian Black Sea Fleet property

The Russian Navy has arrested a group of Ukrainians who were trying to take over control of the Black Sea Fleet lighthouse in the in the port of Sevastopol in Ukraine’s Crimea.

"An anonymous group, which later identified itself as Sevastopol bailiffs, illegally entered the premises of a Russian Black Sea Fleet unit on Wednesday and demanded the transfer of the Kherson Lighthouse's leading beacon to Ukraine," said the fleet press service.

The service also said that the bailiffs referred to a Sevastopol Economic Court resolution. However, Russian servicemen captured the Ukrainians and handed them over to the city police.

Russia says the leased port facilities come under its jurisdiction. The Navy says Ukrainians can't step onto the base without its permission.

"The Russian Black Sea Fleet command is indignant at the unprecedented and flagrant violation of fundamental agreements concerning the Black Sea Fleet," the press service said.

Meanwhile, a representative of Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry has said that the Russian Black Sea command is defying Ukrainian laws, the Interfax news agency says.

The incident with the bailiffs’ detainment is “yet another example of twisting the facts on the part of the Russian Black Sea Fleet authorities” due to “the wish to blame the Ukrainian side for the escalation of the conflict”, the representative continued.

“At the same time, the Russian Black Sea Fleet command has not mentioned the fact that this hydrographic object is being subleased,” the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry representative concluded.

According to the Russian-Ukrainian agreements signed in 1997, Crimean hydrographic objects, including lighthouses, are in Russia’s Black Fleet jurisdiction and can be used until 2017.

Since then, there has been a series of disputes surrounding the agreements, with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko attempting to review them.

In a similar incident three years ago, Ukrainian officials prevented Russian workers from entering the Black Sea Fleet lighthouse in Yalta.