Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 13

Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma yesterday told a news conference that he and Russian president Boris Yeltsin signed a joint decree removing Admiral Eduard Baltin from the command of the Black Sea Fleet. Stressing that he and Yeltsin each had a copy of the decree, Kuchma said that the joint decision had been prompted by Baltin’s involvement in politics. The decree was disclosed by Ukrainian presidential aides when Yeltsin and Kuchma met in the Kremlin January 16. The Russian side has yet to confirm the decree’s existence and the Black Sea Fleet command denies any knowledge of it. Certain Russian sources suggest the decree has been drafted but not signed. Ultranationalist leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky yesterday cabled Baltin to endorse the admiral’s insistence on undivided Russian control of the Fleet. Earlier this week, Baltin addressed Yeltsin by name on television when he announced that he would refuse to pay the fleet’s debts to Ukraine for use of port facilities, even if the Russian government allocated the funds. (13)

The fleet has nominally been under the joint jurisdiction of the Russian and Ukrainian presidents since 1992, pending its partition between the two countries. In practice, the ships have been under Russian control and Baltin has publicly resisted the fleet’s partition. The admiral was a candidate in the recent elections to the Duma on the list of a nationalist bloc. Baltin is, however, at one with the Russian government in insisting on exclusive Russian basing rights in Sevastopol, where Ukraine holds out for shared rights.

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