Ukraine Says Russian Navy Pollutes Black Sea: Report

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine has complained to Russia that its ships stationed in the naval base at Sevastopol have polluted the Black Sea, news agency Interfax reported Monday.

Russian Black Sea Fleet at Sevastopol, Ukraine.

Kiev "has sent a protest note to the Russian Federation because of the pollution of the bay of Sevastopol" on the Crimean peninsula in southern Ukraine, deputy foreign affairs minister Yury Kostenko was quoted as saying.

Russia has had a fleet in the Ukrainian port since Soviet times, but the base has become a source of tension as relations fray between Moscow and its ex-Soviet neighbour.

The pollution occurred at the end of July when a large number of Russian vessels contaminated the bay with oil, the foreign affairs ministry said, cited by Interfax.

According to the agreement governing the fleet, Russia should let Ukraine's environmental authorities enter the area in such a situation but this has not been allowed, Kostenko said.

Ukraine called on Moscow to take action and resolve the problem.

Since the start of the year, Kiev has sent 14 protest notes to Moscow over the fleet stationed on its territory.

Moscow has a lease on the base until 2017 and Ukrainian officials have repeatedly called for the fleet to leave when the lease expires.

The Russian Black Sea fleet is just one of several disputes which have caused relations to worsen between Moscow and Kiev in recent years.

Russia is uneasy over Ukraine's desire to join military alliance NATO and there have also been disagreements over the price of gas sold to Kiev by Moscow.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev accused Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko last week of pursuing "anti-Russian" policies. Yushchenko rejected the accusations.

Source: AFP