President Boris Yeltsin’s office announced yesterday that Yeltsin had postponed indefinitely his official visit to Kiev, scheduled for April 4 and 5, when he was to have signed a framework political treaty. His office quoted Yeltsin as reaffirming his insistence that the treaty be signed in a package with the agreement on the Black Sea Fleet, negotiations on which are deadlocked. Any agreement with "fraternal" Ukraine must "fully meet Russia’s interests," Yeltsin was quoted as saying. Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry responded in a statement that the political treaty and the fleet agreement are separate issues and that the allocation of naval bases to Russia on Ukrainian territory is "within Ukraine’s jurisdiction as an independent state." The ministry expressed the wish to continue the negotiations and for Ukraine to host Yeltsin at any time. (Itar-Tass, Interfax-Ukraine, April 1)
That time is now unlikely to be before the Russian presidential election scheduled for June. By some calculations, this was the sixth postponement/cancellation of Yeltsin’s official visit. However, the event had never previously been this close at hand. At the heart of the disagreement on the fleet is Russia’s demand for exclusive basing rights in Sevastopol — in effect, an attempt to expel Ukraine’s navy from the port city.