The Associated Press
Sunday, August 10, 2008; 6:26 AM
KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine warned Russia on Sunday it could bar Russian navy ships from returning to their base in the Crimea because of their deployment to Georgia's coast.
Ukraine's Foreign Ministry said the deployment of a Russian naval squadron to Georgia's Black sea coast has the potential of drawing Ukraine into the conflict.
"In order to prevent the circumstances in which Ukraine could be drawn into a military conflict ... Ukraine reserves the right to bar ships which may take part in these actions from returning to the Ukrainian territory until the conflict is solved," said the statement which was posted on the ministry's Web site.
Both Ukraine and Georgia have sought to free themselves of Russia's influence, integrate into the West and join NATO.
The statement reflected a strong Ukrainian support for Georgia and is certain to anger Moscow, further straining Russian-Ukrainian relations.
Russia's deputy chief of General Staff Col.-Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn said Sunday he was aware of the statement, but added that the Russian government must analyze it before making comment.
"It makes a third party involved, and it's quite unexpected," Nogovitsyn said said at a news conference.
A 1997 agreement between Russia and Ukraine lets the Black Sea Fleet remain in Sevastopol through 2017, but Ukrainian officials have said they want it out after that. The issue adds to emotions over Crimea, which was part of the Russian Federation but ceded to Ukraine during the Soviet era and became part of the independent Ukraine when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.