Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 203

In a statement distributed yesterday, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry rejected the Russian Duma’s “territorial demands on Ukraine,” which had been raised “not for the first time” in a debate on Crimea and Sevastopol last week. A large majority of Duma deputies refused to ratify a Russian-Ukrainian agreement on Russia’s lease of an antimissile early-warning radar in Crimea, objecting that ratification would imply Russian recognition of Crimea’s status as a Ukrainian territory. “A major part of the Duma’s membership seems unwilling to recognize Ukraine’s territorial integrity and existing borders.” According to the Kyiv statement, it demonstrates that unwillingness by “periodically raising the question of Crimea and Sevastopol in a confrontational and destructive tone, unreconciled to today’s real situation” (UNIAN, November 2).

The Foreign Ministry further expressed “bewilderment and concern” that the Duma is delaying ratification of the Russian-Ukrainian framework treaty, signed by Presidents Boris Yeltsin and Leonid Kuchma in May 1997, which recognizes Ukraine’s independence, territorial integrity and borders. Kyiv’s statement called on Russia’s executive branch to take a stand in response to the Duma’s attitude (UNIAN, November 2). Russia’s executive branch will hardly do so, because it would thereby reduce its own leverage on Ukraine–for example, in the unfinished negotiations on the future of the Black Sea fleet.

Even before Kyiv had issued its response, Moscow mayor and presidential hopeful Yuri Luzhkov surpassed the Duma in terms of directness. He declared that Crimea is “Russian land,” Sevastopol a “Russian city” and Ukraine’s title to them invalid (“handed over by Khrushchev”). Luzhkov used the term “Russian” in both its ethnic meaning (russkii) and its legal-political meaning (rossiiskii). He strongly denied making thereby a “foreign-policy statement” because, in his view, the matter is an internal Russian one (ORT, October 31). Luzhkov’s city hall helps subsidize Russia’s Black Sea fleet in Sevastopol from Moscow taxpayers’ money.–VS