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Sevastopol

Following the election of Viktor Yanukovych to the post of President of Ukraine, Russia managed to secure on April 21, 2010, an extension to its lease of its Black Sea Fleet's base in Crimea. The lease, originally due to expire in 2017, was extended for an additional 25 years. In addition, press reports indicated that the agreement allowed for the lease to be thereafter renewed for an additional five years.

In exchange for the new lease deal, Russia pledged to cut the price of Russian natural gas for Ukraine. According to terms of the deal, Russian President Medvedev stated that Ukraine would "get a $100 discount on the price of gas if the price is higher than $330 per 1,000 cubic meters, or a 30-percent discount if the price is lower". Under the prior 10-year deal negotiated in 2009 by then Ukrainian President Yuschenko, Ukraine had been paying over $300 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas. The discount was to apply to 30 billion cubic meters of natural gas to be supplied to Ukraine in 2010 and 40 billion cubic meters during the following years.

Sevastopol is inseparably linked with the men and warships of the Black Sea Fleet defending southern Russian borders. From the very beginning, the city was conceived as a naval base, and fleet commanders have always exercised greater powers than local mayors. Sevastopol's old town mostly owes its layout to Admiral Mikhail Lazarev (1788-1851), a legendary explorer and naval commander who circumnavigated the world three times in the early 19th century. Many famous Russians served with the Black Sea Fleet, which has always been primarily stationed in Sevastopol. Admiral Fyodor Ushakov (1744-1817) won international fame while commanding fleet elements in the late 18th century. Admirals Vladimir Kornilov (1806-1854) and Pavel Nakhimov (1802-1855) were both killed in the defense of Sevastopol during the 1853-1856 Crimean War. Admiral Sergei Gorshkov (1910-1988), the father of the ocean-going Soviet Navy, also fought here during World War II.

The Russian Black Sea fleet rented naval facilities at the port city of Sevastopol since Ukraine gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Sevastopol is located on the Crimean penninsula. The naval port facilities are very large, and much of the local Crimean economy benefits from the Russian presence. On June 9, 1995 in Sochi, the two countries signed an agreement on separate bases for Russia's Black Sea Fleet and Ukraine's naval forces; Sevastopol was to be the Russian fleet's main base. Property ownership issues were resolved on the basis of an earlier agreement dividing all warehouses fifty-fifty. Russia received 81.7% of all ships and vessels; Ukraine, 18.3%.

Russia's lease on the base was originally due to expire in 2017. There was a real chance that Ukraine's government, under the presidence of Viktor Yuschenko, which had been at odds with Russia over a number of issues, would not have renewed the agreement, forcing the Russian fleet to relocate. Ukranian President Yushchenko had promised not to review the deal before 2017.

In 2004 Sergei Ivanov, the Russian Defence Minister, announced plans to start building a new naval base in 2005 at the southern Russian port of Novorossiysk. He insisted that the Black Sea fleet would remain in Sevastopol, for which Moscow paid $6.4 million in rent in 2003 and was expected to pay $12 million in 2004. "Two bases are always better than one," he said.

Russia's announcement in early 2009 that it would build a naval base in the Abkhaz port of Ochamchire--which became independent, along with the rest of Abkhazia, from Georgia after the 2008 war--led some to speculate that Russia was hedging its bets against losing Sevastopol by preemptively acquiring naval bases elsewhere in the Black Sea. However, the Ochamchire facilities and coastal geography are significantly inferior to those at Sevastopol, and for now the new base appears to be a mere supplement to existing naval power projection.

The 2010 election of Viktor Yanukovych, more closely aligned with Russia, made it possible for the negotiating of a new lease extension on the naval facility. The Ukrainian and Russian parliaments on 27 April 2010 ratified a deal to extend the lease on a Russian naval base in the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol for 25 years after the current lease expires in 2017. In return, Ukraine will receive a 30% discount on Russian natural gas. Ratification of the deal in the Ukrainian parliament took place amid violent protests by the opposition, which has called the deal is an "act of treason." Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, who headed the nationalist Our Ukraine party, criticized the new government for "trading sovereignty for gas." "What happened in the Supreme Rada is a military usurpation; I am convinced that this is not the end," he said at a media briefing. Former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko called on citizens to rise against the current leadership.

Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko announced 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 for Russia's use of the base includes a possible extension of the lease, with Moscow repeatedly saying it wants to negotiate on the issue, Ukraine reiterated in October that it would not permit an extension of Russia's naval presence in the country after 2017.

The Ukrainian and Russian parliaments on 27 April 2010 ratified a deal to extend the lease on a Russian naval base in the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol for 25 years after the current lease expires in 2017. In return, Ukraine will receive a 30% discount on Russian natural gas. Ratification of the deal in the Ukrainian parliament took place amid violent protests by the opposition, which has called the deal is an "act of treason." Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, who now heads the nationalist Our Ukraine party, criticized the new government for "trading sovereignty for gas." "What happened in the Supreme Rada is a military usurpation; I am convinced that this is not the end," he said at a media briefing. Former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko called on citizens to rise against the current leadership.

Sevastopol hosted a naval parade on 13 May 2013 marking the 230th anniversary of the founding of Russias Black Sea Fleet. The parade featured over 20 warships and supply ships from the Russian Black Sea Fleet and the Ukrainian Navy. The first line included the Guards guided cruiser Moskva, which is the flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, as well as the Novocherkassk and Kerch amphibious assault ships and the sole Ukrainian frigate. The second line included Russias Alrosa submarine, a guided missile hovercraft and Ukraines Zaporizhya submarine.

On March 16, 2014 the Republic of Crimea held a referendum on the future of the peninsula. A majority of its people voted for reunification with Russia. On March 18, 2014, at a special ceremony held in the Kremlin, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the agreement on the accession of the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol to the Russian Federation.

In May 2014 the commander of the Russian Navy, Adm. Viktor Chirkov, outlined the contours of the future system of the Black Sea Fleets stationing in Crimea. The Black Sea Fleet will have a proper base infrastructure on the Crimean peninsula, the admiral said. It will include the main Black Sea Fleet base in Sebastopol and other bases and stations. These bases and infrastructure will be self-sufficient. In other words, they will have everything required for a convenient stationing of ships, submarines, and coastal defense troops, along with all the attendant social infrastructure facilities, Chirkov said.



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