Ukraine wants talks on Russian naval base withdrawal – FM

By RIA Novasti

Kiev : Ukraine’s foreign minister said on Saturday that the government wants to start talks to prepare the withdrawal of a Russia naval base from Ukraine.

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Russia and Ukraine signed an agreement in 1997 stipulating that the Black Sea Fleet’s main base in Sevastopol, on the Crimean Peninsula, be leased to Russia for 20 years, with the possibility of extending the term. But Kiev has been pushing for the withdrawal of the base by 2017, in compliance with a previous bilateral agreement.

In his interview with Ukrainian weekly Zerkalo Nedeli, Volodymyr Ohryzko said all proposals by Ukraine to start discussions on the withdrawal had been rejected by Russia as premature.

“But I believe we will be able to take some practical steps to boost the process after the next round,” he said referring to a regular session of a joint subcommittee on the Black Sea base, which is to be held in Moscow on January 24.

The minister said talks were needed to outline a proper withdrawal procedure which would prevent Russia from “leaving barracks and buildings unfit for further use.”

Ohryzko has repeatedly pressed for inventory procedures to be conducted at the base saying some rented facilities are used illegally as they were not included in bilateral agreements.

Russian officials said the country would make no concessions over rent or the withdrawal of the fleet from Ukraine.

The annual rent of about $100 million is deducted from Ukraine’s debt for Russian energy supplies, but Ukraine wants to increase the rent. In addition to the main base, the Black Sea Fleet maintains two airfields and a ship re-supply facility on the Crimean Peninsula.