KIEV, Aug. 14 – Ukraine’s defense forces will make sure that Russian battleships comply with recent decrees by President Viktor Yushchenko restricting movements of Russia’s navy, Serhiy Kyrychenko, the chief of staff, said Thursday.
Kyrychenko made the remarks hours after a top Russian military commander had denigrated the decrees, suggesting that Russian naval forces would probably seek to ignore them.
“The decrees by the President concerning the Black Sea Fleet will, of course, be implemented on the territory of Ukraine,” Kyrychenko said. “The Defense Ministry and the Chief of Staff are those state structures that have been assigned to this task.”
Kyrychenko made comments shortly after briefing foreign diplomats on the measures that Ukraine plans to implement in regard to the Black Sea Fleet, a day after Yushchenko had signed the decrees.
The decrees require Russian battleships and aircraft, stationed in the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol, to submit to Ukrainian chief of staff a special notice at least 72 hours before crossing the Ukrainian border.
The notice should also provide the number of personnel on the battleship or the aircraft, as well as information on weapons, munitions, explosives and other military property.
The restrictions are aimed at preventing a situation, according to which Ukraine may be involved in a military conflict between Russia and a third party if the battleships participate.
Ukraine, which fears the battleships have been already used in the conflict with Georgia last week, argued that this puts Ukraine under threat of retaliation, since the battleships have been stationed in the Ukrainian port.
In general the restrictions make it more difficult for the Russian navy to cross the Ukrainian border, while making the process more time consuming. This may limit the military power of the BSF should Russia seek to use the forces again.
Russia on Thursday defied the decrees, suggesting its navy would seek to not comply with the new regulations.
“We have one Commander-in-Chief, this is the president of the Russian Federation,” Anatoliy Nagovitsyn, a deputy chief of staff at the Russian army, said earlier Thursday. “All other statements made from outside are illegitimate for the Black Sea Fleet.”
Kyrychenko said should any Russian battleship or an aircraft choose to ignore the decree, an appeal will be directed to the Foreign Ministry seeking to permanently ban this battleship or the aircraft from ever stationing on the Ukrainian territory.
The developments come after crisis has escalated in the Caucasus with Russian troops invading Georgia allegedly to protect two separatist pro-Russian enclaves on the Georgian territory.
The sharp exchange between the Russian and Ukrainian defense officials over the Black Sea Fleet underscores that major confrontation is possible over the issue between Kiev and Moscow.
The issue looms large after Russia last week sent flotilla of battleships from their naval base in Sevastopol towards the zone of fighting off the Georgian coast.
The flotilla, led by flag-ship Moskva, a battle-cruiser equipped with 16 cruise missiles capable of firing on targets within the range of 550-km, consisted of seven ships, including one transportation vessel and one rescue vessel.
The flotilla appeared off the Georgian coast on Sunday, but had been later relocated towards the Russian naval port of Novorossiisk in the Black Sea.
There were no indications that these battleships were used in the conflict, but Russia’s naval command had confirmed late Sunday that undisclosed Russian battleships had sunk one “target.” (tl/ez)