Russia, Ukraine In Row Over Misplaced Torpedo

KIEV, Ukraine -- The Kremlin and the Ukrainian government exchanged diplomatic salvos on Tuesday in growing war of words over a lost Russian Navy torpedo.

Russian sailors walk along a street in Sevastopol, Crimea in Ukraine. Sevastopol is the main base of the Russian Black Sea Fleet.

Ukraine's Ministry of Foreign Affairs fired off a formal note to Moscow complaining that the weapon had been launched by Russian naval forces during secret war games in the Black Sea.

The half-ton projectile was found slightly above the high water line by a Ukrainian border troops foot patrol walking the shore between the seaside cities Sudak and Alushta, in the heart of Crimea's summer resort region.

The torpedo's firing violated a 1997 agreement between the two nations requiring counterparts be informed ahead of time if either side intends to conduct military training in the region's waters, the Foreign Ministry note contended.

'The firing was not agreed upon in any way with the Ukrainian side...and so it is completely unacceptable,' the statement read in part.

A Russian Navy response reported by the Interfax news agency criticised the Ukrainian claims, arguing the object found by the Ukrainians on the beach was not a really a weapon, but rather a dummy torpedo.

'There was no threat to the environment, and of course none at all to people,' the Black Sea Fleet statement said in part. There were no details the means by which the Russian torpedo landed on the Ukrainian beach.

The Russian fleet statement claimed Ukrainian objections were politically-motivated, as a Russian fleet element 'lost accountability' on the torpedo in late April, but the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry only chose to complain about it nearly a week later.

April 30 through May 9 inclusive are generally-recognised holidays in both Russia and Ukraine. Government work including non-essential offices of the Russian Black Sea Fleet and the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry are closed for most of the period.

Russia maintains naval installations in the Ukrainian port city Sevastopl, home port for Russia's Black Sea fleet. Ukrainian authorities returned the wayward torpedo to Russian naval officials.

Russian military bases in the enthnically-divided Crimea region is a sensitive issue, because many ethnic Russians living there support a Russian military presence in the region, although the bulk of Ukrainians oppose it.

Source: DPA