Russia-Georgia conflict raises Black Sea tension

Kiev, Tbilisi, Aug 27 | Updated: Aug 29 2008, 05:19am hrs
Ukraine said on Wednesday it wanted to discuss charging Russia more for the lease of a Black Sea naval base, a move that could aggravate regional tensions already enflamed by Moscow's conflict with Georgia. As the US Navy shipped in humanitarian supplies to Georgia, Russia said its navy was watching "the build-up of NATO forces in the Black Sea area" and had started taking measures to monitor their activity. Georgia weighed its response to the Moscow-backed breakaway of two rebel Georgian regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and President Mikheil Saakashvili urged the West to stand firm in upholding international law.

"Russia clearly intended this as a blatant challenge to world order. It's now up to all of us to roll Russian aggression back. If they get away with this, they will carry on ... they will also attack other countries in the neighbourhood," he told Reuters in an interview. Russia quickly routed Georgian forces in a brief war over South Ossetia this month, the first time it has sent its forces into combat abroad since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

The crisis has rattled the West and alarmed other former Soviet republics with sizeable Russian minorities, particularly Ukraine and the Baltic states.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko joined Western nations in condemning the Russian move on Tuesday to recognise South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states under Moscow's protection. "We are sorry about this decision, for Ukraine it is unacceptable and therefore we cannot support this position," he said in an interview with Reuters.