Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 214

Ukrainian first deputy prime minister Vasyl Durdinets, First Deputy Defense Minister Col. Gen. Ivan Bizhan, and other participants in the negotiations with Russia on the Black Sea Fleet have in recent days revealed some of the differences that have again led the talks into an impasse. (See Monitor, November 6) The Russian side opposes the siting of Ukraine’s naval command in Sevastopol, claiming this right exclusively for the Russian command. It would also restrict Ukrainian ships to anchorages in only one bay — Streletskaya — of Sevastopol’s five bays, and demands that the coastal infrastructure used by Russian ships be transferred to Russian ownership rather than continuing on the basis of leasing arrangements. The Russian side insists on retaining ground units attached to the fleet above ceilings set by the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty.

The Ukrainian side argues that the siting of its own naval command in Sevastopol and national ownership of the coastal infrastructure to be leased to Russia are non-negotiable prerogatives of state sovereignty. Kiev calls for the removal of those Russian ground units that exceed CFE limits. It also wants the bilateral agreements on the status of the Russian fleet and naval bases in Ukraine to stipulate maximum force ceilings, and also a mechanism for their rotation, in order to prevent ceiling breaches.

Ukraine proposes to charge rent totaling between $1.4 billion and $2.1 billion annually, depending on the aggregate size of the land and water areas to be leased to the Russian fleet. With its coastal facilities, that fleet currently occupies 46,000 hectares of Ukrainian territory, much of it expensive Crimean land. Ukraine is willing to deduct the value of the rent from its debts to Russia, or to accept deliveries of Russian natural gas as counting toward the rent during the 20-year leasing period.

Officials in Kiev point out that Ukraine has "reached the limit of concessions" after having consented in earlier stages of the negotiations to a lopsided partition of the fleet in Russia’s favor instead of declaring it Ukrainian property, and of having accepted the principle of long-term leasing of bases instead of setting a more stringent timetable for the Russian fleet’s withdrawal. The officials are at the same time concerned that the prospect of anticipated presidential elections in Russia–even after Boris Yeltsin’s apparently successful heart surgery–is forcing Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to adopt a rigid stance on the fleet and other unresolved issues in Russian-Ukrainian relations. (Interfax-Ukraine, UNIAN, November 10 through 13)

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