Russian president Boris Yeltsin’s foreign policy aide, Dmitry Ryurikov, stated at a Moscow briefing yesterday that "the Russian fleet alone must be based in Sevastopol. We are working on that." Ryurikov added that Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin’s planned visit to Ukraine has been postponed indefinitely pending resolution of the fleet dispute. (Interfax, November 20). Ryurikov’s statement is consistent with Yeltsin’s directive "not to surrender anything in Sevastopol" in the negotiations with Ukraine over the fleet. That instruction was cited by the Black Sea Fleet commander, Adm. Viktor Kravchenko, in a letter to Ryurikov reproduced by the Russian press last week. "B. N. Yeltsin’s directive has been followed undeviatingly," the Admiral wrote, adding that division of naval bases in Sevastopol would lead to the loss of the city by Russia. (Nezavisimaya gazeta, November 14)
Russian Public Television (ORT), meanwhile, has included the Sevastopol area in the nightly weather forecasts for regions of the Russian Federation. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry announced yesterday that it has twice protested the move as "inadmissible" in notes to the Russian Foreign Ministry and to ORT management, but the protests are being ignored. Kiev is now weighing follow-up steps, Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Yury Serhyev said. (Interfax-Ukraine, November 19 and 20)
Moscow’s insistence on exclusive basing rights in Sevastopol has recently set back the Black Sea Fleet talks, despite Kiev’s offers of concessions on other fleet-related issues. Moscow and Kiev both realize that exclusive basing of the Russian fleet in Sevastopol would compromise Ukrainian sovereignty in the city and in the Crimea as a whole. Unlike the Duma’s majority and certain Russian presidential hopefuls who have made territorial claims, the Russian government apparently seeks to consolidate Moscow’s presence in Sevastopol through nonspectacular, practical steps.
Ryurikov Deems Ukrainian Independence Temporary.