Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 59

The Verkhovna Rada yesterday ratified the set of three agreements on the basing of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Ukraine. The voting tally was 250 in favor (24 more than necessary), 63 opposed, and the balance to 450 either not attending, not voting, or abstaining. The agreements were signed in May 1997 in Kyiv by the Russian and Ukrainian prime ministers, at the same time that the interstate political treaty was signed by the two countries’ presidents.

The margin of approval was wider that might have been expected on the basis of past declarations of parliamentary caucuses. Nor were the agreements challenged on constitutional grounds, although some deputies had earlier planned such a recourse, inasmuch as the constitution prohibits the stationing of foreign forces on Ukrainian territory.

The relatively easy approval was spurred by three factors. First, by an informal and more or less tacit understanding, under which the Rada reciprocated the Russian Duma’s ratification of the Russian-Ukrainian political treaty. Second, by the condition that Russia’s Federation Council attached to its own ratification of the political treaty–namely, that it would take effect only after Ukraine ratifies the three Fleet agreements. That condition represented a strong lever, because the political treaty enshrines Ukraine’s existing borders and its legal title to the Crimea. Third, and ultimately, by the Kuchma administration’s pressure on hesitant Rada deputies to vote for ratification.

The three agreements deal, respectively, with the apportionment of the ex-USSR’s Black Sea Fleet’s assets of all types among Russia and Ukraine (the document dubbed “parameters of the fleet’s division”), the legal status and conditions of the Russian fleet’s presence on Ukrainian territory, and the settlement of financial accounts resulting from the fleet’s partition and from the costs of servicing the Russian fleet in Ukraine.

Under these agreements, Russia rents a number of specified land and water areas for use by its fleet for a twenty-year, potentially extensible period. The naval port of Sevastopol with its five bays is shared by the Russian and Ukrainian fleets under the principle of simultaneous basing. The agreements set quantitative ceilings on the Russian ships, armaments and manpower which may be stationed on Ukraine’s land and in its territorial waters. Fleet exercises require prenotification to and clearance by Ukrainian authorities. Russia refunds to Ukraine a total of US$726 million–in two distinct accounts of US$526 million and US$200 million, respectively–for the value of certain fleet assets ceded by Ukraine to Russia. Those sums are to be deducted from Ukraine’s state debt to Russia, payable by 2007.

Kuchma telephoned Russian President Boris Yeltsin for an exchange of congratulations in connection with the ratification. These agreements had been the subject of arduous negotiations from 1992 to 1997, involving Yeltsin and two Ukrainian presidents–Kuchma and his predecessor Leonid Kravchuk–before the equally arduous ratification process could begin (UNIAN, DINAU, March 24).–VS