KIEV, Aug. 26 – Russia’s Black Sea Fleet forces on Wednesday detained Ukrainian court officers in Sevastopol after the officers tried to enforce a court ruling that had ordered return of some navigation equipment to Ukraine.
The officers were later released to police in Sevastopol, but the incident could have “tragic consequences” for the people involved, the BSF press service said, according to Interfax-Ukraine.
The development dangerously escalates tensions between Ukraine and Russia whose relations are already at the lowest point since the collapse of the former Soviet Union in 1991.
“The court officers intentionally broke international agreements by penetrating illegally to the facility that is under security protection, putting not only themselves, but also witnesses, in danger,” the BSF said in a statement. “The responsibility for the possible tragic consequences of such incidents fully lies with organizers of such provocations.”
This is the first time that Ukrainian citizens have been detained by the armed foreign forces on the territory of Ukraine, which sets a dangerous precedent that may have serious consequences.
A legislation recently suggested by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev would allow Russian troops based in other countries to open fire for self-protection.
Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry, which appears to be seriously concerned with the legislation, has been seeking to get more details over how the legislation would affect Ukraine, home to Russia’s naval Black Sea Fleet.
The escalation comes after Ukraine on Tuesday vigorously denied Russia’s allegations that Ukrainian troops had been helping Georgia to fight off Russian army during their five-day war a year ago.
Valentyn Nalyvaychenko, the head of the SBU security service, said the allegations represent “a lying statement,” while Kostiantyn Hryshchenko, Ukraine’s ambassador to Russia, said the allegations point to either “unprofessional” investigation or an outright “order” to discredit Ukraine.
Vladimir Markin, Russia’s special representative of the chief investigation committee under the Prosecutor General Office, said Monday the committee had uncovered “evidence” of Ukrainian troop involvement in the Russia-Georgia war. He said undisclosed number of the Ukrainian troops and about 200 volunteers have been helping Georgia to fight off Russia during the war in August 2008.
No evidence, however, has been presented to the Ukrainian ambassador at a high-level meeting at the Russian Foreign Ministry, Hryshchenko said.
The escalation comes a week after Medvedev has accused his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yushchenko of “anti-Russian” policy.
This underscores Moscow’s increasingly assertive foreign policy and fuels fears in Ukraine that Russia may be preparing for some sort of a clash with Ukraine, perhaps in Crimea, an autonomous region that is populated mostly by ethnic Russians.
In August 2008, Russia sent tens of thousands of troops and tanks into Georgia, a small pro-Western ally of Ukraine.
The five-day incursion ended with a de-facto annexation of Georgia’s two breakaway territories, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, a move that had been condemned by most countries in the world. (tl/ez)