Ukraine's top court upholds extended lease for Russian Navy base
KIEV, April 22 (RIA Novosti) - Ukraine's Constitutional Court has ruled that the extension of Russia's lease on a naval base in Crimea conforms to the country's Constitution, Foreign Minister Kostyantyn Hryshchenko said on Thursday.
The lease agreement, signed on Wednesday, extends Russian naval presence in the port of Sevastopol for 25 years after the current lease expires in 2017, and may be further extended by another five years.
The Ukrainian opposition earlier said any prolongation of Russian military presence would require amendments to the Constitution as well as a national referendum.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych said the country would benefit from the extension of the lease agreement as Ukraine would be receiving money on a cash basis for the lease, opposite to writing off the debts for the use of the Russian natural gas.
"Considering that the annual lease fee for the presence of the Black Sea Fleet was $97.850 million, this is the sum which was used in offset settlements every year to reduce the debt for natural gas consumed by Ukraine," he said, explaining that Ukraine had accumulated debts for gas supplies since it gained independence in 1990s.
"We have agreed that Russia will give a considerable discount [on gas prices] for the next 10 years," Yanukovych said.
He also said that the fleet had been stationed in Sevastopol since Soviet times and the local infrastructure was set up for the naval base.