AP: Russia must obey court order to return Crimean lighthouses

11:54, 26 January 2007
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Ukraine`s Foreign Ministry insists

Ukraine`s Foreign Ministry demanded on Thursday that Russia obey a court order and return to Ukraine control the Crimean lighthouses and navigation systems being used by Russia`s Black Sea Fleet, according to AP.

Russia and Ukraine have been arguing over 100 lighthouses along the Black Sea coast for nearly a decade. After years of court battles, an appeals court in the Black Sea port of Sevastopol last year upheld an earlier decision ordering Moscow to return 77 lighthouses to Ukraine`s Transport Ministry.

Moscow vowed to ignore the order, saying the 1997 agreement that divided the Soviet Union`s Black Sea Fleet between Russia and Ukraine took precedence.

Under that agreement, the Russian navy was allowed to remain in the Crimean port of Sevastopol until 2017, paying an annual rent of $93 million.

Ukraine insists the lighthouses were not part of the deal, and the Foreign Ministry warned that it would take unspecified action "based on international legal norms" if Russia continued to disregard the court order.

On Tuesday, a Ukrainian bailiff tried to gain access to a radio navigation system on the Crimean Peninsula but was barred by officials of Russia`s Black Sea Fleet, the Interfax news agency reported. Last year, Ukraine also tried to take over control of some of the lighthouses, prompting Moscow to accuse Kiev of trying to seize Russian property.

The presence of the Russian troops on Ukrainian territory has sparked anger among Ukrainian nationalists, and given rise to a number of disputes between Ukraine and Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Ukraine`s Foreign Ministry said it would again raise the issue of the lighthouses at an upcoming intergovernmental meeting in Moscow next month.

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