Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 36

Visiting the Crimean port-city of Sevastopol on February 21, Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov reiterated his controversial claim that Sevastopol should be returned to Russia, to which it belonged until 1954. "Moscow has not abandoned Sevastopol," Luzhkov told local residents. Luzhkov was in Sevastopol, the main base of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, for the opening of an apartment block for Black Sea Fleet officers whose construction was funded by the Moscow city government. In future, Black Sea Fleet officers with 10-years service will be entitled to apartments in the Russian capital, he promised. (Russian agencies, February 17 and 21)

Luzhkov has repeatedly called for Sevastopol to return to Russia, accusing Kyiv of forcibly "Ukrainizing" the city. As evidence, Luzhkov complains that street signs are now written in Ukrainian only.

Relations between Moscow and Kyiv have warmed appreciably since Presidents Yeltsin and Kuchma signed a much-delayed friendship treaty between their two countries at the end of May last year. Under the terms of the treaty, both countries recognized the territorial integrity of the other within its present borders. The treaty has yet to be ratified by the Russian parliament, and it is this fact — plus suspicions that Luzhkov harbors presidential ambitions — that renders Luzhkov’s statements threatening. The Yeltsin government has repeatedly dissociated itself from Luzhkov’s statements and those of the Federation Council, of which Luzhkov is a prominent member. Last May, the Federation Council called on Yeltsin to consider pursuing a special international status for Sevastopol; a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman responded with a statement that Moscow had no territorial claim to Sevastopol and was not seeking to change the city’s status. That same month, Yeltsin spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky confirmed that Russia regarded the return of Crimea and Sevastopol as "a non-issue, since we have recognized that they are by law Ukrainian territory." (Russian agencies, May 30, 1997)

Riga Will not Prolong Russian Lease to Skrunda.