Speaker says Russia likely to contest ownership of Sevastopol
26/05/2008 16:28 MOSCOW, May 26 (RIA Novosti) - Sergei Mironov, speaker of the upper house of Russia's parliament, said on Monday Russia could claim back Sevastopol, a Russian naval base on Ukraine's Crimean peninsula.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko recently ruled not to extend lease terms for Russia's Black Sea Fleet in Ukraine after May 28, 2017.
"Undoubtedly, we must raise the issue ourselves, and if necessary, with the Ukrainian authorities," Mironov told reporters commenting on Yushchenko's decision.
"We should study the issue more closely. If Yushchenko is making such statements, we can also start looking into the issue properly," the senator said, describing Yushchenko's instructions as "illogical and untimely."
Mironov pledged to give instructions to a number of Federation Council committees to consider drafting a bill on Russia's Black Sea Fleet.
There have been frequent disputes between Russia and Ukraine over the lease of the base. In the latest dispute, Moscow Mayor Yury Lyzhkov was barred from entering the former Soviet republic over similarly provocative statements.
According to Luzhkov, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev gave the Crimea to Ukraine in 1954 as "a token of brotherly love," but under a 1948 decree Sevastopol was assigned special city status "under the governing central authorities," and, therefore, could not be included in the list of territories transferred to Ukraine.
On Thursday Russia's Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that in response to Ukraine's decision to prohibit Luzhkov from entering Ukraine, Russia announced a number of Ukrainian politicians would not be allowed entry into Russia.
The Crimea, now an autonomous region within Ukraine, is a predominantly Russian-speaking territory. Since the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union, the Crimea has unsuccessfully sought independence from Ukraine. A 1994 referendum in the Crimea supported demands for a broader autonomy and closer links with Russia.
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