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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

President Disowns Parliament's Sevastopol Claim

President Boris Yeltsin has disowned the Russian parliament's claim of the Crimean port of Sevastopol, saying he was "ashamed" of the move and reassured Ukraine no action would be taken against the city.


"I am ashamed of our Supreme Soviet", Interfax quoted the president as saying Saturday in the Siberian city of Irkutsk, where he met German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. "Serious legislators do not behave in this way".


According to the news agency, Yeltsin told reporters the question of who should command the Black Sea Fleet, which is based in Sevastopol, should be solved "gradually and calmly".


"Otherwise, what do you want me to do -- declare war on Ukraine? " Yeltsin added.


The Crimean parliament on Monday criticized the Russian parliament's action but supported the lawmaker's other decision Friday to keep the Black Sea Fleet united.


Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev also opposed the vote on Sevastopol, warning that it was "hasty" and could lead to confrontation between Russia and Ukraine, Itar-Tass reported.


The legislature's resolution that was passed Friday without dissent also called for the removal of all Ukrainian troops from the area.


Relations between the two countries since the breakup of the U. S S. R. have been strained, but some improvement has been made recently by the signing of several accords which would boost economic links.


After months of quarreling over the Black Sea Fleet, leaders finally decided last month to divide the force equally by 1995. The plan has met resistance, however, among the fleet's officers and sailors, the majority of whom are ethnic Russians.


Colonel Andrei Lazebnikov, the fleet spokesman, reacted to parliament's resolution by saying that "everyone had accepted the decision with grand enthusiasm", The Associated Press reported. "Finally, a decision has been reached", Lazebnikov said. "It is something the citizens of Sevastopol and the sailors of the Black Sea Fleet have waited for for a long time".


According to Itar-Tass, Ivan Yermakov, the Sevastopol representative of Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk, acknowledged that the citizens of the closed military city welcomed the decision of the Russian parliament.


In Sevastopol itself, a crowd of several hundred people supported the Russian resolution by demonstrating, demanding Ukrainian flags be lowered from all public buildings and calling for an end to the Ukrainian presence in the city, Itar-Tass said.


The Ukrainian ambassador to Russia, Volodymyr Kryzhanovsky, told Itar-Tass on Saturday that the resolution could be compared to "Gavrilo Princip's shot in Sarajevo", referring to the student who assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary in 1914, which historians consider to have started World War I.


The Crimea was given to Ukraine in 1954, after it had been part of the Russian Empire since 1783.


(AP, Reuters, Itar-Tass, Interfax)