Russo-Ukrainian Row Over Naval Parade Averted, US Marines Take Part

KIEV, Ukraine -- A Russo-Ukrainian row was averted Friday with US marines taking part in a World War II memorial march, Channel 5 television reported. Russian naval officials in the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol, the home base for Russia's Black Sea fleet, had intended to hold a parade of warships in the bay on Friday.

A Russian marine stands in front of the Soviet Navy flag during celebrations marking the 225th anniversary of Russia's Black Sea Fleet in the Ukrainian city of Sevastopol May 11.

But the Sevastpol city government banned the event.

The naval parade had been intended by the Kremlin to mark the 63rd anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe (VE Day), and simultaneously, the 225th anniversary of the founding of the Russian Black Sea fleet.

VE Day is a major holiday in both Russia and Ukraine. Many Ukrainians consider the founding of Russia's Black Sea Fleet a key and infamous date in Russia's 350-year domination of Ukraine.

Talks between the Black Sea Fleet leadership and representatives of the Sevastopol city government went down to the wire, with state- controlled Russian television reporting on Thursday evening the parade would go ahead, and Sevastopol police warning they would arrest any Russian military leaving their base without a permit.

An apparent compromise was reached during the early hours of Friday to cancel the warship parade, and to substitute a march by soldiers by both down Sevastopol's main street.

The parade took place without combat vehicles like tanks or armoured personnel carriers, as a Russian concession to the Ukrainians.

Russian and Ukrainian naval infantry and cadets marched in parallel columns from Sevastopol's Admiral Nakhimov Square down the port city's main street.

A detachment of US Marines from the John L. Hall, a US Navy frigate on port call in Sevastopol, also participated in the march.

It was according to the Channel 5 report the first time US Marines had ever participated in a VE Day parade in Sevastopol, which was closed to all foreigners during the Soviet era.

A naval parade marking "naval cooperation and comeradeship" would go forward on May 11th with the participation of Russian and Ukrainian warships, Interfax news agency reported.

"It was complicated, but we reached a compromise," said Serhy Kunytsin, a Sevastopol city government spokesman.

Russian observation of Soviet-era military ceremonies such as the annual VE day naval parade in Sevastopol bay are considered insulting by some Ukrainians, who see Russian military presence in Crimea a threat to Ukrainian sovereignty.

Other Ukrainians, including many ethnic Russians living in Crimea, see the ceremonies as an important continuation of Soviet tradition, and the Black Sea Fleet as a guarantor of their safety against ethnic Ukrainians and Tartars also living in the region.

Source: DPA