Ukraine Accuses Russian Sailors Of Illegally Occupying Territory

MOSCOW, Russia -- Ukraine on Thursday accused Russia of illegally occupying part of its territory on the Black Sea, where the Russian navy has access to port facilities under a special bilateral agreement.

“We consider that Russia is occupying a territory of more than 150 hectares (370 acres) and hundreds of sites situated there,” said Ukrainian Depiuty Foreign Minister Volodymyr Ogryzko.

He said the Russians had denied this.

Ogryzko and his Russian counterpart Grigory Karasin clashed at a press briefing after attending a joint Russian-Ukrainian commission tasked with settling outstanding differences over the presence of the Russian fleet in the Black Sea following Ukrainian independence.

This presence was supposed to be regulated under a 1997 agreement, but the two sides differ in their intepretations of the document.

“There have been considerable violations by Russia of certain points in the agreement,” Ogryzko told journalists.

Kasarin said discussions were proving difficult. “There are clear divergences in the approaches of the two sides,” he said.

Ogryzko said his side had not detected any willingness by the Russians to make any rapid or effective progress. “It has been three months since the commission last met. We can confirm today that we have not made progress.”

But Karasin rejoined: “It is a very sensitive subject for us. We don’t want to over-simplify the situation.”

Ukraine has threatened to raise sharply the rent paid by Russia for port facilities for its navy at Sevastopol in the Crimea as a reprisal for Russiaincreasing the price of natural gas it supplies to its neighbour Ukraine.

Under the 20-year 1997 accord, Russia pays approximately 100 million dollars (79 million euros) annually for rental of the Sevastopol facilities.

Source: AFP