Russian president Boris Yeltsin February 21 appointed Vice Admiral Viktor Kravchenko commander of Russia’s share of the Black Sea Fleet. Kravchenko, a submariner, served with the Black Sea Fleet from 1968 to 1991, then became First Deputy Commander of Russia’s Baltic Fleet. Kravchenko’s Ukrainian surname is that of foster parents; he is in fact an ethnic Russian born in 1943 in the Urals. The new commander said at his inaugural news conference that "the political decision about the Black Sea Fleet has been made and I, as a soldier, must do what I am told, have the fleet divided and rebased." Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma and Defense Minister Valery Shmarov welcomed Kravchenko’s appointment, describing him as moderate and respectful of civilian authority. According to recent reports, Russia’s share of the Black Sea Fleet is to be reduced to flotilla size but the "Fleet" designation will not change. (11)
Kravchenko’s immediate predecessor in command of the still-undivided fleet, Admiral Eduard Baltin, had resisted the fleet’s partition and openly joined the political opposition to Yeltsin. Kravchenko’s appointment signifies a decisive step toward the fleet’s partition, as he will be the first Russian commander responsible only for Russia’s share of the fleet. Ukraine last year appointed Rear Admiral, now Vice Admiral, Volodymyr Bezkorovainy commander of its naval forces, which are being assembled from Ukraine’s share of the Black Sea Fleet. The first, major stage of the fleet’s partition is expected to be completed by March 12, when Ukraine takes official possession of the Donuzlav base complex. But Russia and Ukraine have yet to solve the festering problem of the Russian fleet’s status on Ukrainian territory and the terms of its basing.
Kyrgyz Government Resigns.