Ukraine Bars Moscow Mayor Over Call to Hand Over Port

APLuzhkov visiting the Moskva guided-missile cruiser in Sevastopol on Sunday.
KIEV — Mayor Yury Luzhkov has been barred from entering Ukraine for suggesting that it should cede the city of Sevastopol to Russia.

Ukraine's State Security Service said Luzhkov's comments were undermining national interests and the country's territorial integrity. The agency also said it was looking into allegations that Luzhkov was involved in money laundering in Ukraine.

In Moscow, the Foreign Ministry criticized the Ukrainian move as an "unfriendly step" and said he had expressed a view shared by many Russians. "Yury Luzhkov only expressed an opinion that conforms with the viewpoint of the majority of Russians, who have watched the breakup of the Soviet Union with pain," the ministry said in a statement.

Speaking on Sunday at Sevastopol celebrations for the 225th anniversary of the foundation of the Black Sea fleet, Luzhkov said the Crimean port city belonged to Russia. A lease agreement with Ukraine allows Russia to use Sevastopol as the main base for its Black Sea Fleet until 2017.

The Crimean Peninsula has long been part of the Russian empire and then of Soviet Russia. In 1954, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev awarded Crimea to Soviet Ukraine, where he lived and ruled for many years.

Luzhkov, who has long angered Ukraine with similar statements, said Khrushchev never meant for Sevastopol, a key port where Russia's Navy had been based for centuries, to become part of Ukraine and suggested that the current arrangement should be reconsidered.

"This issue remains unresolved. We will resolve it within the framework of the truth, state positions and the rights that Russia has to its naval base — Sevastopol," he said, Interfax reported.