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Russian Black Sea Fleet commander summoned for questioning in Ukraine

April 22, 2016, 15:33 UTC+3 KIEV

The official is accused of inciting for high treason, organizing actions aimed at damaging important defense faculties, taking part in an aggressive war against Ukraine

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© Alexey Pavlishak/TASS

KIEV, April 22. /TASS/. Ukraine’s Chief Military Prosecutor’s Office has sent a registered letter to Russian Black Sea Fleet Commander Vice-Admiral Alexander Vitko, accusing him of committing especially grave crimes against Ukraine, the prosecutors’ press office said on Friday.

"The official accusation was handed over at 17:00 hours on April 18 at the place of Vitko’s location in Sevastopol by the DIMEX international delivery courier service," the press office said.

According to the accusation brought by Ukraine’s Chief Military Prosecutor’s Office, "Vitko deliberately committed criminal acts with the aim to change the borders of the territory and the state border of Ukraine, incited for high treason, organized actions aimed at damaging important defense faculties, planned, organized and took direct part in an aggressive war against Ukraine."

After bringing the charges and summoning Vitko for questioning on April 25 in compliance with the Ukrainian Criminal Procedure Code, Ukraine’s Chief Military Prosecutor’s Office will put him on the wanted list and request a court of law to choose a measure of restraint for him in the form of custody, carry out a special preliminary investigation and send the indictment to the court within the shortest time.

Vitko was appointed as the Russian Black Sea Fleet commander in April 2013. During the Crimean events in the spring of 2014 he took part in negotiations with the Ukrainian Navy, which was the cause for the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office to institute criminal proceedings against him on the counts of incitement for high treason.

In response, Russia’s Defense Ministry called Kiev’s actions a provocation, saying that Vitko had been performing the duties of the Black Sea Fleet commander in full compliance with the existing bilateral treaty on the Russian Fleet’s basing in Crimea.

Meanwhile, Russia’s Investigative Committee opened a criminal case into the illegal actions by the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office. Nevertheless, Vitko was included in the list of Russian citizens against whom the European Union imposed personal sanctions.

The Crimean authorities held a referendum on March 16, 2014 on local residents’ attitude to Crimea’s reunification with Russia. With a record turnout of over 80%, 96.7% of Crimean residents and 95.6% of electors living in the Crimean port city of Sevastopol voted for the Black Sea peninsula’s reintegration into Russia.

The treaty on integrating the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol into Russia was approved by both houses of the Russian parliament, after which President Vladimir Putin signed a federal law on incorporating two new constituent entities into the Russian Federation.

Ukraine, the United States and the European Union have refused to recognize Crimea as part of Russia, despite the referendum’s convincing results.

Crimea used to be part of Russia from 1784 until 1954 when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev handed it over to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in a voluntaristic act. Crimea remained part of independent Ukraine after the USSR collapsed in 1991.

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