Russia: Fleet refuels away from base 'to avoid tax'

Russian Navy ships at anchor in Sevastopol The fleet has to cruise out of town to fill up on fuel

Russia has stopped fuelling the famous Black Sea Fleet at its naval base in a bid to avoid taxes, it's reported.

A fleet has been based at Sevastopol, in today's Ukraine, since the late 18th Century and the site will remain in Russia's hands until 2042. But it seems the Russian Foreign Ministry is unhappy at the level of VAT and customs duty charged by its host "without legal justification". An unnamed diplomat told the Interfax news agency: "The fuelling of Russian Black Sea Fleet ships on Ukrainian territorial waters stopped last autumn in order to save money."

Apparently, leaving Ukrainian waters to top up the tank has saved Russia 180m roubles (£3.6m). The fleet had already moved its repair operations to Bulgaria, Interfax notes. The port's status remains contentious. Though founded by Russia, Sevastopol was transferred to the Ukrainian soviet republic in the 1950s. And when Ukraine broke away - in 1991 - the port went with it, leaving sailors to decide which country's navy to serve. The decision to extend Russia's lease - in exchange for cheap gas - sparked punch-ups in Kiev's parliament three years ago.

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