Moscow Mayor Inflames Russian-Ukrainian Differences over Sevastopol

Moscow Mayor Inflames Russian-Ukrainian Differences over Sevastopol

Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov traveled to the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol May 10-11 to mark the 225th anniversary of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. During that weekend, he made several inflammatory comments to the effect that the port and city still legally belong to the Russian Federation. Luzhkov's remarks have further strained relations between Russia and Ukraine, which also differ on other issues, especially Ukrainian aspirations to join NATO.

The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) responded by designating the Moscow mayor persona non grata. The SBU claimed that Luzhkov ignored "a warning regarding the unacceptability of actions harming Ukraine's national interests and its territorial integrity." Ukrainian authorities had handed Luzhkov a note upon entry warning against violating Ukrainian laws. Luzhkov went on to denounce the warning, insisting that, "they won't shut me up. Crimea residents wanted to hear the truth." Ukrainian officials had repeatedly complained about earlier Luzhkov statements, as well as those of other politicians, that threatened Ukraine's independence. Even before Luzhkov's latest outburst, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry had formally demanded that Russian authorities cease threatening Ukraine, calling these statements "direct interference in Ukraine's internal affairs."

The Russian Foreign Ministry termed the SBU decision an "unfriendly move." Its statement complained that "the Ukrainian side denies Russian citizens the right to express their views on our joint past for the umpteenth time and has again returned to the vicious practice of compiling 'black lists,' restricting entry into Ukraine for individual citizens of the Russian Federation." In any case, the Ministry statement explained that Luzhkov was simply expressing "an opinion which conforms with the viewpoint of the majority of Russians who have watched the breakup of the Soviet Union with pain." On May 22, the ministry issued a press release announcing that the Russian government would also bar "those Ukrainian politicians who by their actions and remarks inflict harm upon the Russian Federation" from entering Russian territory.

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