President Leonid Kuchma yesterday appointed Rear Admiral Mikhaylo Yezhel as commander in chief of Ukraine’s naval forces. Yezhel, whose name had been put forward by Defense Minister Aleksandr Kuzmuk, was concurrently appointed deputy defense minister. Rear Admiral Viktor Fomin was appointed first deputy naval commander. The outgoing commander in chief, Vice-Admiral Volodymyr Bezkorovainy, was placed at the disposal of the defense minister, who yesterday assigned Bezkorovainy to handle problems related to the partition of the Black Sea Fleet. (Interfax-Ukraine, October 28) Yezhel, born in 1952, served in the ex-USSR’s Pacific fleet before joining the Ukrainian navy, most recently as Admiral-Inspector of the Defense Ministry’s Main Inspectorate. His appointment as commander in chief probably presages a promotion to higher military rank.
The ministry’s Main Inspectorate, together with the Ukrainian President’s General Military Inspectorate, found the performance of Bezkorovainy and of his two top deputies unsatisfactory and asked them to resign last week. (See Monitor, October 25). According to the head of the presidential General Inspectorate, Gen. Valery Hubenko, Bezkorovainy’s failings included allowing the Russian-controlled fleet to conduct exercises in Ukrainian waters "whenever and wherever it pleased." One of the Inspectorate’s conclusions was that "the rules governing the movement of civilian and military vessels in our waters are still in the hands of the Russian fleet." Inspectors also criticized the command’s performance in ensuring the ships’ battle worthiness. (UNIAN, October 28) Nevertheless, the timing of the resignation of Bezkorovainy and his two deputies, on the eve of a reported breakthrough in Russian-Ukrainian negotiations on the fleet, has fueled speculation that the three admirals disagreed with concessions made in the fleet negotiations.
Russia Refines Position on Caspian Sea Status.