As previously predicted in the Monitor (see Monitor, October 25 and 31) and contrary to misleading reports since the October 24 Yeltsin-Kuchma meeting, a breakthrough in the Black Sea Fleet negotiations is not imminent. Yesterday in Kiev Ukrainian leaders stood their ground at a new round of talks that was supposed to wrap up a compromise in order to pave the way for bilateral economic and political agreements. The Russian delegation broke up the meeting after the first of two scheduled sessions, even canceling its participation in a dinner with the Ukrainian side.
The talks were "marked by tensions and a heavy atmosphere," according to Ukrainian security and defense council secretary Volodymyr Horbulin. He and other Ukrainian officials indicated that the Russian delegation, led by Deputy Prime Minister Valery Serov, surprised Kiev with a set of new and unacceptable demands aimed at maximizing Russia’s presence and rights in Sevastopol while correspondingly minimizing those of Ukraine. (Interfax-Ukraine, November 6)
In Moscow, recently-named General Staff chief Gen. Viktor Samsonov stated that he is "firmly convinced that Russia must not give up Sevastopol." The deputy commander in chief of Russia’s naval forces, Adm. Igor Kasatonov, publicly came out in support of the Duma’s October 23 bill, which would halt the partition of the Black Sea Fleet, declare the fleet to be Russian property, and claim exclusive Russian basing rights in Sevastopol. (Moskovskie novosti, November 3; Interfax, November 6) These various demands contradict the Russian government’s officially stated policy, but the government is increasingly using such statements to intensify the pressure on Kiev.
Ukrainian officials now doubt that Russian prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin’s much-delayed visit — to which they attach disproportionate value — can take place anytime soon. Facing artificially imposed deadlines and Russian pressures on energy, trade, and debt issues, Ukrainian leaders recently gave every indication of a readiness to rush to a compromise agreement on the fleet. Kiev’s signals could not have failed to encourage the escalation in Moscow’s demands, which, in turn, apparently ended up stiffening Kiev’s spine.
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