Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma says Ukraine is willing to study the status of the Black Sea port of Sevastopol "in light of international experience." (Interfax-Ukraine, September 12) He was commenting on recent statements from Moscow, where Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed has said he wants to take part in the resolution of Ukraine’s dispute with Russia over the basing of the Black Sea Fleet, and Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov has asserted that Sevastopol is "a Russian city" and "not part of Ukrainian territory." Kuchma added, "If President Yeltsin were not sick, we would not be having this conversation."
Luzhkov has repeatedly asserted that during the Soviet period Sevastopol was not administratively part of Crimea. While the rest of the peninsula was transferred by Khrushchev from Russia to Ukraine in 1954, Sevastopol was a closed military city and was administered directly from Moscow, not from Kiev. Luzhkov argued that, since no mention of Sevastopol was made in the December 1991 agreement dissolving the USSR, Sevastopol is still, by default, part of Russia. Kiev responds that Russia recognized Ukraine within its existing borders, de facto including Sevastopol, in a treaty signed by Yeltsin in 1990.
The central Ukrainian authorities and the authorities in Crimea are also engaged in a battle over Sevastopol. Kiev says that the city is under the direct administration of the central government. But the authorities in Crimea have inserted clauses in various drafts of the Crimean Constitution that have stated that Sevastopol is an integral part of Crimea. These claims have been rejected by Kiev, which is one of the reasons why the Crimean Constitution has still not been approved by the Ukrainian parliament and entered into force.
RTR commented on September 10 that the renewed interest being shown in Moscow in Sevastopol and the Black Sea Fleet is more likely connected with Russian internal politics than with Ukrainian-Russian relations. (RTR, September 10) Luzhkov and Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed would both be presidential aspirants in the event of Yeltsin’s demise. But real estate is also a factor. Luzhkov’s government is financing the repair of buildings in Crimea belonging to the Moscow municipality and a bilateral cooperation agreement between Crimea and Moscow is under negotiation. (Interfax, August 28) Property is still a live issue in Crimea: the head of Ukraine’s State Property Fund told the Ukrainian parliament on September 10 that Ukraine had completed its program of small-scale privatization everywhere except in Crimea. (Itar-Tass, September 10)
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