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Black Sea Fleet (BSF) - Post Soviet Division

At the disintegration of the Soviet Union, estimates of the number of ships counted in the Black Sea Fleet varied widely, from as many as 635 to as few as 300 warships and submarines. The number of Russian personnel associated with the fleet was variously estimated at between 47,000 to 70,000. In 1995, the fleet reportedly had approximately 48,000 naval and marine personnel, 14 submarines, 31 surface ships, 43 patrol and coastal ships, 125 combat aircraft, and 85 helicopters.

The Black Sea Fleet became an object of contention between Russia and Ukraine when the latter republic achieved independence after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Ukraine, a nation of 52 million people, borders the Black Sea and rents facilities in its port of Sevastopol to the 250-ship Russian Black Sea fleet. Ukrainian naval forces, with about 160 vessels, are based to the south in the port of Donuzlav. Although Ukraine had no use for a blue-water navy and cannot afford to maintain one, it was reluctant to surrender its share of the fleet, both of whose home ports are in Ukraine, to a larger neighbor with a tradition of domination.

Acrimonious relations over--and within--the fleet itself were fostered by naval leaders and nationalistic politicians within the legislative branches of the two governments. A long period of wrangling over the allegiances of military personnel and how to divide the ships of the Black Sea Fleet followed. The presidents of Russia and Ukraine reached agreement in August 1992 under which the fleet and ports would be under joint command of Russia and Ukraine for 3 years. At the Tashkent summit, Russia agreed to cede to Ukraine a certain portion of the former Soviet Union's weapons, units, and sites. Since these weapons fell under the numerical and zone restrictions of the CFE Treaty, Ukraine agreed in its articles of ratification to reduce any excess TLE within 40 months of entry into force.

The 126th Coastal Defense Division, stationed in Simferopol, was once a motorized rifle division belonging to the Ground Forces. During the negotiations for the CFE treaty, the division was transferred to the navy and transformed into a coastal defense division. The CFE treaty does not apply to naval forces, but NATO objected so strongly to the move that the Soviet Union finally agreed to count the weapons in the division against its treaty allowances. In August 1995 it was announced that the division would be disbanded, and the equipment and property of the division turned over to Ukraine.

Partitioning the fleet proved to be to difficult at Tashkent; consequently, the issue was left to bilateral Russian-Ukrainian negotiations. In June 1993, Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk and Russian President Boris Yeltsin signed an agreement that essentially split the fleet in half, beginning in September 1993 and reaching completion in 1996. No sooner had this agreement been announced than it fell apart. Russian naval officers objected to any transfer, and Ukrainian military leaders objected to any loss of territory from the naval bases slated for transfer. The Black Sea Fleet agreement was renegotiated in September 1993 and again in April 1994.

By 1995, the fleet had approximately 48,000 naval and marine personnel, 14 submarines, 31 surface ships, 43 patrol and coastal ships, 125 combat aircraft, and 85 helicopters. Equipment covered by the CFE Treaty included one coastal defense division with 175 tanks, 450 armored infantry fighting vehicles, and 72 artillery pieces. The fleet also contained a naval infantry brigade with 50 tanks, 218 ACVs, and 45 artillery pieces. Based in the Odessa Military District in the Crimea, this fleet was manned predominantly by Russian sailors and officers. The fleet's Russian commander and its senior officers resisted any partition and transfer to Ukraine.

On 25 November 1995 Russia and Ukraine reached an agreement on division of the Black Sea Fleet, under which Ukraine would receive 150 naval installations of the fleet. Another agreement in February 1996 fell apart two months later, when Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev stopped the division because of controversy over where the Russian fleet would be based.

After nearly five years of controversy, on 28 May 1997 Moscow and Kiev finally settled their dispute over the Black Sea Fleet, when Prime Ministers Chernomyrdin and Lazarenko signed three intergovernmental agreements. The two sides agreed to divide the fleet's assets and to lease port facilities in Sevastopol to the Russian Navy. Under the agreement the two nations split the fleet's ships evenly, though Russia agreed to buy back some of the more modern ships with cash. Thus Russia ultimately received four-fifths of the Black Sea Fleet's warships, while Ukraine received about half of the facilities.

The two leaders agreed that Russia would rent three harbors for warships and two airfields for a twenty-year period, for a payment of about $100 million annually. Sevastopol, which had been partly under Russian control, was given to Ukraine. Russia will keep its portion of the former Soviet fleet for 20 years in several bays at Sevastopol, and the Ukrainian navy will also be stationed at a bay there. Russians leased the Saki shore carrier flight training facility on the Crimean Peninsula prior to the re-deployment of the Kuznetsov to the Northern Fleet. Russia agreed to station no more than 25,000 military personnel at the bases, and that it would place no nuclear weapons at the leased facilities. A result of the division of the Black Sea Fleet between Ukraine and the Russian Federation, armaments and equipment of the Coastal Defence Forces and Naval Infantry assigned to the Russian Federation were subject to withdrawal from the territory of Ukraine.

As of July 1997 Ukraine was implementing the agreement concerning the division of the Black Sea Fleet, and had taken the allocated fifteen vessels from the Russian fleet. On 24 March 1999, the Ukrainian Rada finally ratified the three intergovernmental agreements signed in May 1997. The Ukrainian Navy consists of 44 fighting ships and 80 auxiliary vessels. The Ukrainian Navy has about 100 ships off different types. Ukrainian naval bases are : Odessa; Ochakov; Chernomorskoe; Novoozernii and Feodosiya. The main base of the Ukrainian Navy is Sevastopol.

When Ukraine demanded the division of the Black Sea Fleet, Russia was forced to begin construction of a new naval base near Novorossiisk, since some 80 to 90 percent of the Black Sea Fleet of the former USSR was deployed in Sevastopol.

In late 1997 a three-day common exercises of Ukrainian and Russian fleets "Peace Fairway - 97" took place. The exercise involved 50 ships, 14 planes, 2 helicopters and more than 15 thousand servicemen. The share of Russian staff was about twice that of the Ukrainian one. The exercise did not constitute a beginning of military cooperation between Ukraine and Russia, since Ukraine is a non-aligned and neutral state.

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Page last modified: 18-03-2014 14:57:21 ZULU