Ukraine implements tougher rules on Russian navy

Friday, August 15, 2008

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The above file photo (2004) shows a sniper taking aim at Ossetian rebels in South Ossetia to allow the Georgian Army forces to move forward Photograph: Jonathan Alpeyrie

Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko issued a decree limiting the movement of Russian Black Sea Fleet in Ukrainian waters in response to its deployment in a blockade of Georgia's sea ports during the Russia-Georgia conflict. Ukraine has already before urged Russia to withdraw its troops from Georgia's territory. Last weekend Ukraine threatened to refuse the Russian vessels reentry to the Sevastopol naval base if they became involved in the conflict in Georgia.

Russian Москва cruiser of the Black Sea Fleet

The Russian fleet is based in Sevastopol on Ukraine's Crimea peninsula under an agreement signed between Russia and Ukraine. Under the terms of the decree, the Russian navy is compelled to obtain Ukrainian permission 72 hours in advance of the departure of any of its warships or aircraft. Ukraine's foreign ministry would be empowered to demand a vessel leave Ukrainian territory if the Russians did not comply.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov described the Ukrainian move as reflecting "an obsessive desire to please NATO and join it." Russian deputy chief of General Staff, Anatoly Nogovitsyn, dismissed the decree as "nonsense" and said that the order would make Russia's Black Sea Fleet subordinate to the Ukrainian government. According to Russian RIA Novosti news agency, Yushchenko sent a proposal to Russia on Friday to draft a bilateral agreement on the Russian Black Sea fleet deployed in Ukraine.

The Russian fleet blocked several Ukrainian vessels in the Georgian port of Poti but within a couple of days they were released. Georgian Chief of Staff Serhiy Kirichenko said on Thursday that the presidential decree would be carried out, no matter what.

"Putin's next target will be Ukraine" said Richard Holbrooke, a former United States Ambassador to the United Nations in a CNN interview.