"The fleet is currently concentrating on drafting and implementing plans to raise its combat efficiency," said Vladimir Dorokhin, the Foreign Ministry's ambassador-at-large, in response to comments made by Ukrainian Defense Minister Anatoliy Hrytsenko that Russia had to withdraw its fleet from the Crimean peninsula in 2017 at the latest.
Dorokhin also said Moscow wanted to avoid a dramatization of the situation around Ukraine's demands to stop the operation of naval courts, military prosecutor's offices and patrols at the facilities of the Black Sea Fleet. The Russian contingent has been based there under an agreement after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
"Every attempt to dramatize the situation and use it for propaganda purposes is, in our opinion, counter-productive," the diplomat said.
Dorokhin said that agreements between Russia and Ukraine stipulated that Russian laws governing criminal cases were used in two instances: if members of the military contingent or their family members were alleged to have committed a crime against Russia or its military contingent or family members, and in the event of crimes that were alleged to have been committed by servicemen on duty on the territory where the military contingent is based.
He said that by signing the agreements, Ukraine had given its consent to the functioning of Russian law enforcement bodies at the Russian base in Ukraine.
"Obviously, the agreements are being interpreted differently," Dorokhin said. "Further consultations between experts are needed to resolve the differences."
In light of recent disputes between Russia and Ukraine on access to facilities leased to the Russian fleet, Dorokhin said the Black Sea Fleet was cooperating with Ukrainian bodies currently undertaking an inventory at the facilities. At the same time, he continued, a question arose about certain facilities leased by the fleet.
"Many of these facilities are used for purely military purposes, which means unauthorized individuals cannot be granted access to them. The consultations with the Ukrainian side aim to draw up an appropriate mechanism for cooperation on such issues," Dorokhin said.
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