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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Ukraine says Black Sea Fleet rearming unacceptable

RIA Novosti

27/01/2009 17:49 KIEV, January 27 (RIA Novosti) - Russia has no right to make a unilateral decision on rearming its Black Sea Fleet, based in Ukraine, a senior Ukrainian diplomat said on Tuesday.

Some media sources earlier cited an anonymous Russian Navy official as saying that Russia is planning to redeploy a submarine from the Northern Fleet to the Sevastopol base in Ukraine's Crimea.

"Russia has no right to replace or add a new vessel to the naval contingent deployed on the Ukrainian territory without prior consent of the Ukrainian government," said Leonid Osavolyuk, director of the first territorial department at Ukraine's Foreign Ministry.

He added that Ukraine was willing to discuss possible rearming of the Russian Black Sea Fleet on two conditions: the signing of a special agreement on specific types of weaponry and a bilateral agreement on Black Sea Fleet operations in times of a crisis.

Tensions between Russia and Ukraine heightened after several Black Sea Fleet warships dropped anchor off the Georgian coast during and after last August's armed conflict with Tbilisi over breakaway South Ossetia.

Ukraine, which sided with Georgia during the conflict, repeatedly said that Russian combat ships frequently transport undeclared cargo and refuse to submit customs declarations while crossing Ukrainian territorial waters

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 in the 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 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.