Struggle for power in Ukraine is still accompanied with various pinpricks and provocations of Kyiv addressed at Russia. The Black Sea Fleet is the most convenient target in this aspect. Recently, Ukrainian authorities stated a whole series of claims against the Black Sea Fleet. For instance, the Interior Ministry of Ukraine sent an official note to Russia with a request to explain the situation regarding Molniya boat of project 1241 that allegedly remained near the berth of the Feodosia Bay for eight years without identification signs. The boat has allegedly been standing there for eight years but Ukrainian authorities recall about it only now, evidently after a series of anti-NATO rallies of pro-Russian residents of the Crimea. They evidently thought that if an American ship could not stay at a pier even for two days a Russian ship standing for eight years was an outrage. The Navy Command explained to WPS that the issue of Molniya boat that was repaired at the Kerch ship repair plant in the past “is being settled through military diplomatic channels and the stance of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry that writes some notes about this is simply incomprehensible.”
Another recent “attack” of official Ukrainian authorities is a letter of director of Sarych beacon located on the southern coast of the Crimea Yury Leshchenko to Russian President Vladimir Putin. In his letter, the Ukrainian official demands in the ultimatum form “to stop occupation of Ukrainian beacons and actually free and irresponsible operation of Ukrainian property.” It is known that the dispute about beacons is being settled in the framework of bilateral negotiations of Yushchenko-Putin commission. It is not clear why should a director of a beacon get involved in this process and why it is necessary to publish his angry letters in mass media.
This is not all. Last week Ukrainian Foreign Ministry demanded raising Ukrainian flags on ships of the Black Sea Fleet, although not forever but only for the period of the naval parade in Sevastopol on July 30, on the day of the Navy of Russia. Vasily Filipchuk, director of the press service of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, states that this demand is quite justified and corresponds to the international law norms.
Captain of the First Class Igor Dygalo, aide to the Russian Navy Commander, does not think so. According to Dygalo, it is up to experts to decide on a bilateral basis as a result of negotiations to which extent this corresponds to the norms of international law. Admiral Vladimir Komoedov, former Commander of the Black Sea Fleet is more frank and straightforward. Commenting on the demand of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, he said that by such actions “Kyiv wants to humiliate Russia.” This demand has nothing to do with the international law norms. The admiral explains that when any ship of a foreign country enters territorial waters of another country flags of the receiving party are raised on its masts. Komoedov adds, “It is very difficult to divide Russia and Ukraine into received and receiving party.”
Thus, the new contradictions between the Black Sea Fleet and Ukraine inspired by Kyiv are obvious. Despite its seeming simplicity one of these contradictions can spoil relations between the countries seriously. If Russia refuses to raise Ukrainian flags on its ships, Kyiv may prohibit organization of the naval parade in Sevastopol. It is known that such parades represent a long-standing tradition of the Russian Navy.
According to Dygalo, Command of the Navy is prepared for such a turn of events. However, officially “the Main Staff of the Navy did not receive documents from the Ukrainian party yet with the proposals or demands to raise Ukrainian flags on the Russian ships during celebration of the Navy Day. If such documents are received they will be considered,” states Dygalo.
There were also permanent pickets of the so-called Ukrainian “students’ fraternity” near the objects of the Black Sea. Quite recently, last month, bailiffs and representatives of the Ukrainian enterprise Gosgidrografia tried to take the building of the hydrographic service of the Black Sea Fleet and simultaneously demanded reassigning of the navigation and hydrographic objects managed by the Black Sea Fleet to them. Such actions served as a reason for Russian sailors to reinforce guards of the beacons and other objects of the fleet. This circumstance increases tension in the Crimea too and many Russians already refuse to go on vacations there.
What is the most surprising is the fact that Ukrainian Interior Minister Yury Lutsenko supports the anti-Russian actions near the objects of the Black Sea Fleet. Recently, he announced in Sevastopol that public organizations of the country had a right to picket objects of the Black Sea Fleet having emphasized that “police should provide for the rights of the picketers.” Lutsenko also commented on the attempts of Ukrainian judicial authorities to take the beacons managed by the Black Sea Fleet. The Interior Minister pointed attention of journalists to the fact that “territory of Ukraine has its own laws that everyone should obey including the situations where bailiffs come and should open doors of any division.”
To put this short, this is lawlessness. Kyiv has stopped paying attention to international law norms towards the Black Sea Fleet and is acting in an impudent and prejudiced manner. Why? The answer seems to be on the surface. Observers notice that unfriendly steps of Ukrainian authorities towards the Russian fleet in the Crimea coincide with discussion of energy problems, gas prices etc by Moscow and Kyiv. The government of the young reformists that has power now evidently wants to pressurize Russia in such way and these attempts have direct consequences for the Black Sea Fleet. At any rate, such attempts will be doomed to fail. Pressurizing, blackmailing and “cold war” are not methods for solving problems in relations between two countries populated by the people close in spirit, culture and ethnic component.