Order on Fleet to Go Unheeded

Russia's military said Thursday that it would ignore a decree by Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko requiring its Black Sea Fleet to give 72 hours' notice before undertaking any movements from its Crimean port.

Anatoly Nogovitsyn, deputy head of the armed forces' General Staff, said the order, which also would require the Russian Navy to submit a request 10 days before ships return to the Crimean port, was illegitimate and violated previous agreements.

The Black Sea Fleet has been deployed to the Georgian coast as part of Moscow's military action against Georgia.

"We don't consider such orders as legitimate," Nogovitsyn told a briefing. "We will follow the existing agreements."

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov criticized the Ukrainian move Thursday, saying it reflected "an obsessive desire to please NATO and join it."

The chief of Ukraine's General Staff, Serhiy Kirichenko, promised to fulfill Yushchenko's decree. "The president's decree on the Black Sea Fleet will, of course, be implemented on the territory of Ukraine," Kirichenko told reporters, the Unian news agency reported. "The Defense Ministry and the General Staff are among those state bodies responsible for this task."

Yushchenko's order, issued Wednesday, is seen as a strong show of support for Georgia as both countries seek to break free of Moscow's influence.

Reuters, AP