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Ukraine, Russia to discuss Black Sea Fleet facilities in June

RIA Novosti

15:3425/05/2009 KIEV, May 25 (RIA Novosti) - Russia and Ukraine have agreed to hold their next round of talks on the future of Russia's naval facilities in the Crimea on June 10, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said on Monday.

The countries held a subcommittee meeting on the Black Sea Fleet in Moscow on May 20-21.

"During the meeting, the working group coordinated the agenda and several documents that may be signed at the seventh session of the subcommittee, scheduled to be held on June 10 in Kiev," said Vasyl Kyrylych, head of the ministry's press service.

Russia's Black Sea Fleet uses a range of naval facilities in Ukraine's Crimea, including the main base in Sevastopol, as part of a 1997 agreement, under which Ukraine agreed to lease the bases to Russia until 2017.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko announced last summer that Ukraine would not extend the lease of the Sevastopol base beyond 2017, and urged the Russian fleet to start preparations for a withdrawal.

Although the agreement on Russia's use of the base foresees a possible extension of the lease, and Moscow has repeatedly said it wants negotiations on the issue, Ukraine's leadership insists that it will not permit an extension of Russia's naval presence in the country after 2017.

Kiev believes that the $98 million which Russia pays annually for the lease of the facilities in the Crimea is insufficient. The sum is subtracted from Ukraine's debt to Russia for supplies of natural gas to the ex-Soviet republic.

Russia is considering opening a base at Ochamchira, a seaside town in the former Georgian region of Abkhazia, which has been recently recognized by Russia as an independent state, as a possible replacement for the Sevastopol base.


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