MOSCOW, January 13 (RIA Novosti) - The seizure by Ukrainian officials of the Russian Black Sea Fleet's lighthouse in Yalta, in Ukraine's Crimea, cannot fail to harm Russian-Ukrainian relations, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Friday.
The incident is "all the more disappointing in the light of the constructive meetings in Astana between the Russian and Ukrainian presidents," ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said.
The head of the Yalta lighthouse and two of its workers were prevented from working Friday morning on the grounds that the staff's documents enabling them to enter the port had allegedly expired, Russian officials said.
Ukraine has responded to Russia's complaints by saying that it has the right to use the facility, and that talk of a "seizure" constitutes deliberate disinformation on Russia's part.
Kamynin said the lighthouse ensured navigation security for both civil and military ships in the Black Sea.
"This incident can hardly be regarded as anything other than an attempt by certain forces in Ukraine to once again complicate the situation around the Black Sea Fleet, creating incidents that hinder the normal operation of its navigation-hydrographic facility," he said.
Kamynin said the Russian Foreign Ministry had demanded that the Ukrainian authorities make an official explanation and that the fleet staff be immediately allowed to resume their duties.
The Russian Black Sea Fleet leases the base of Sevastopol in the Crimea. Although Russia and Ukraine have an agreement under which Russia will lease the base until 2017, some Ukrainian politicians called for a revision of the contract terms after Russian energy giant Gazprom announced that it wanted to raise prices for supplies of natural gas to Ukraine to international market levels.