The Crimean leadership has responded angrily to a move by the Ukrainian authorities to place the Crimean resort, Yalta, under the direct control of the central government. Last week, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma signed a decree installing a new temporary mayor in Yalta and placing the city under central government authority. In a resolution adopted yesterday, the presidium of the Crimean parliament called the move "a violation of Crimea’s autonomy." (Financial Times, February 3) Crimea is Ukraine’s only autonomous republic and the only region of Ukraine where ethnic Russians make up a majority of the population.
A battle has been going on for several years between Ukraine’s central government and Crimea over control of Crimea’s strategically sensitive city, Sevastopol. Kyiv says Sevastopol is not administratively part of Crimea because it remained subordinated to the Soviet government in Moscow when Crimea was transferred from Russia to Ukraine in 1954. The Crimean authorities deny this, pointing out that Sevastopol has always sent elected representatives to the Crimean parliament in Simferopol. The squabble allowed the 1993 Russian parliament the edge to provoke an international incident by declaring Sevastopol a Russian city and voting to transfer it to Russian jurisdiction.
Relations between Simferopol and Kyiv have traditionally mirrored the state of relations between Moscow and Kyiv. These are, at present, as harmonious as they have been for a long time. Although the Crimean authorities can count on the support of Russian nationalists in the Russian Duma, they are less likely to gather any support from the Yeltsin government over the Yalta issue. The Kuchma government appears to be taking advantage of its present good relations with Moscow to bring Yalta under its control.
Armenian President at Bay.