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Ukraine dismisses use of force reports over Russia's naval fleet

08.10.2008 Source: en.rian.ru

Ukraine's defense ministry dismissed on Monday reports that the country is ready to use force to seize the Black Sea Fleet's navigation and hydrographic support facilities in the Crimea.

A lawmaker from the pro-Russian opposition Party of Regions, Taras Chornovil, said earlier Monday that Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and his inner circle are planning military action to seize the disputed facilities, which would lead to further tension in Russian-Ukrainian relations.

"This [information] is untrue," a defense ministry source said.

Frequent disputes have flared up between Russia and Ukraine over the lease of naval facilities on the Crimean peninsula. The ownership and leasing by Russia of lighthouses and other navigation and maritime support facilities have caused constant disputes between the ex-Soviet neighbors.

Ukrainian court officials have made several attempts to seize the headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet's hydrographic service in Sevastopol and navigation facilities over the last few years, citing district court rulings.

Russia said decisions by local Ukrainian judicial institutions have no legal authority in relation to the Fleet's facilities and that any attempt to seize them would be in a breach of a bilateral agreement that runs until 2017.

In late August, an aide to Russia's navy commander, Capt. 1st Rank Igor Dygalo, said Russia's Black Sea Fleet had stepped up security at its facilities in Ukraine to prevent any possible provocative acts.

Under bilateral agreements, Russia's Black Sea Fleet has the use of the Sevastopol base until 2017. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko recently announced that Ukraine would not extend the lease beyond the date.

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