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Russia urges dialogue with Ukraine over Black Sea Fleet spat

MOSCOW, February 13 (RIA Novosti) - Russia called for a constructive dialogue with Ukraine on Monday over the status of naval facilities on the Black Sea that have been at the center of an acrimonious dispute in the last month.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement: "The Russian party is prepared for a constructive dialogue with [its] Ukrainian counterparts, and seeks mutually acceptable solutions on all issues related to activities of the Russian Black Sea Fleet on Ukraine's territory."

Under a contract running to 2017, Russia rents facilities from Ukraine for its naval presence, which has remained in the country since the collapse of the Soviet Union but has been a cause of friction recently as bilateral relations have deteriorated.

A sub-commission for the Black Sea Fleet involving two deputy foreign ministers from Russia and Ukraine, Grigory Karasin and Volodymyr Ogryzko, is set to meet in Kiev on February 14 to discuss the situation with the Yalta lighthouse and all other issues essential for the normal functioning of the Black Sea Fleet.

A series of incidents involving the Russian fleet and its facilities have marred bilateral recently. On January 14, Ukrainian officials seized a lighthouse belonging to the Black Sea Fleet in a move that many Russian politicians saw as a response to a heated dispute between the neighboring countries over natural gas prices. Russian energy giant Gazprom turned off supplies to Ukraine January 1 after the latter refused to pay market prices for Russian gas. The dispute was officially ended on January 4 with the signing of an agreement, but tensions have continued.

(The Moscow Times 13.ii.06)

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