Kiev Seeks An End to Ship Feud

SEVASTOPOL, Ukraine -- Ukraine said Wednesday that it would not stop Russian ships used in the Georgian conflict from coming back to their Black Sea port, lessening prospects of a standoff with Moscow.

Ukraine, which has backed Georgia in armed clashes with Moscow over South Ossetia, is angry that Russia has used ships based on Ukraine's Crimea Peninsula to take troops to Georgia and has ordered tighter monitoring on Russian naval movements.

Russia has dismissed those new rules, saying its Navy takes orders only from the Kremlin.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov, playing down confrontation with Moscow, said the Russians were adhering to a simplified version of the rules but that new tighter screening of Russian ships would apply once the Cabinet had approved them. "Why should we stop them [the ships]? We have good relations. There are no problems. Everything has been done as usual, as determined by the presidential decree," he told reporters Wednesday.

The full set of rules will require Russia to give details of weapons and people on board its ships and planes. Additionally, Russia will have to give 72 hours notification before its vessels leave Ukrainian territory. Ukraine would have the right to expel vessels and aircrafts from Ukrainian territory.

Russia, which used the ships on sea patrol after it launched an operation to push Georgian forces out of South Ossetia, said notifying Ukraine of the fleet's movements has been the norm for years.

"It is the standard procedure for notification which has been in force since 1997 whenever warships leave and arrive [at the port ... without explanation of the purpose and where they are going," a Russian Defense Ministry official said.

Yekhanurov said no ships were expected to dock Wednesday, despite earlier comments by the Defense Ministry that at least one was scheduled to return to base.

A Russian Navy spokesman said the ships would come back once their Black Sea mission ended but did not give a timeframe.