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Ukraine Defends Seizure Of Yalta Lighthouse

Yalta, Crimea (ITAR-TASS) 13 January 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Ukraine's Foreign Ministry today defended the seizure of a Russian-manned lighthouse at the Yalta commercial port, saying all Crimea's hydrographic navigation facilities were the property of the central government.

Ministry spokesman Vasyl Filipchuk spoke to RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service after Russia accused Ukraine's state hydrographic services of forcibly taking possession of the Yalta lighthouse.

"All hydrographic navigation facilities on the Crimean shore, including the lighthouse of Yalta's commercial port, are Ukrainian property,” he told RFE/RL. “The basic agreements outlining the rules of the (Russian) Black Sea Fleet's temporary stationing on Ukrainian territory make no provisions for leasing out any hydrographic navigation facilities to the Black Sea Fleet. Besides, it is prohibited under Ukrainian law. Any statements alleging that the Yalta lighthouse has been seized present deliberate misinformation."

Russia says the lighthouse seizure is a "provocation" that violates bilateral agreements on the stationing of its Black Sea fleet in Crimea.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said the incident could affect Russian-Ukrainian relations.

An aide to the commander-in-chief of the Crimean-based Russian Black Sea Fleet, Captain Igor Dygalo, told the Itar-Tass news agency the logic of the Ukrainian argument is flawed.

Dygalo said that under a bilateral agreement, the Yalta lighthouse is part of the Russian Black Sea Fleet's hydrographic navigation systems.

Under a 1997 agreement, Ukraine allowed Russian warships to remain based in the port of Sevastopol until 2017. Ukraine threatened to raise the rent amid a recent row over gas prices with Russia.

(RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, Ukrainian Foreign Ministry statement, Russian Foreign Ministry statement, ITAR-TASS)