Sevastopol, 12 June 1997 (RFE/RL) - The Soviet-era naval flag was lowered for the last time today on warships of the Russian Black Sea fleet.
The Soviet-era naval flag was replaced with the St.Andrews' cross, a Russian flag that dates back 300 years to the founding of the Russian fleet by Peter the Great.
The ceremony, which coincided with Russia's Independence day, marked the end of a long dispute between Russia and Ukraine over the status of the former Soviet Black Sea fleet and its main base, the Ukrainian city of Sevastopol.
Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev, who attended the ceremony, called for closer cooperation with the Ukrainian navy and said joint Russian-Ukrainian naval exercises might be held in the Black Sea this year. At the same time Sergeyev reiterated Russia's opposition to the August NATO-led naval exercises off the Crimean peninsula, which will include Ukraine.