In the wake of Kiev’s recent decision to resist escalating Russian demands in negotiations on the Black Sea Fleet (see Monitor, November 7), Russia’s Duma is considering a bill today that would confer "Russian status" on the Ukrainian city of Sevastopol. Cleared by three Duma committees for floor action, the bill stipulates that Sevastopol was not transferred to Ukraine with the Crimea, and that the city is to constitute "the main base of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet." President Boris Yeltsin’s foreign policy adviser, Dmitry Ryurikov, publicly advised Kiev yesterday against describing the Sevastopol bill as "some kind of territorial claim." The Duma had on October 23 adopted almost unanimously — with the approval of the government faction "Russia is Our Home" — a bill halting the fleet’s partition and declaring the fleet and its coastal facilities Russian property.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Demurin announced yesterday that Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin would not visit Ukraine after all. In an obvious reference to the stalled negotiations on the fleet, Demurin said that the visit can take place "when the documents that should be prepared for the visit are ready." Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma publicly asked Moscow to go ahead with the visit without preconditions, so as to "confirm the Russian side’s intention to continue the dialogue with Ukraine." Bilateral relations extend far beyond the issues of the fleet and Sevastopol, Kuchma remarked. (Itar-Tass, Interfax, November 12).
Kiev is anxious to discuss with Chernomyrdin reliable Russian gas supplies, removal of Russian trade barriers on Ukrainian goods, official recognition of existing borders, and the interstate political treaty. But Moscow continues to hold those issues, as well as Chernomyrdin’s visit, hostage to an agreement on the fleet and its bases.
Kiev Ponders Appeal for International Support.