Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 76

Russian defense minister Pavel Grachev yesterday cabled the command of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet an order to suspend the previously agreed transfer of Sevastopol-based ships to Ukraine, the Ukrainian naval command said. The partition of the fleet in other Ukrainian ports is not affected, but the lion’s share of the fleet is in Sevastopol. Meanwhile, the Russian fleet is conducting a massive, combined-arms exercise off the Crimean coast. (Interfax-Ukraine, Itar-Tass, April 17)

The order looks like retribution for Ukraine’s continuing refusal to concede Russia exclusive basing rights and use of coastal infrastructure in Sevastopol, as well as for its refusal to order the Ukrainian fleet to quit the port city, as Moscow demands. Grachev should feel on safe political ground for having canceled a commitment undertaken by Russia at the highest level. In the last few days, Boris Yeltsin and Viktor Chernomyrdin have described Sevastopol as an embodiment of Russian glory, a prize of Russian blood, and as indispensable to Russia now and in future.

Georgia Gives Russian Peacekeepers Deadline, Calls for International Tribunal on Abkhazia.