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Ukraine says Russian naval base deal will not affect EU ties

RIA Novosti


KIEV, April 28 (RIA Novosti) - The extension of Russia's use of a naval base in Crimea will have no influence on Ukraine's prospects for European integration, the Ukrainian foreign minister said on Wednesday.

The agreement extending the lease on the Russian Navy base in the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol for 25 years after the current lease expires in 2017 has been ratified by the Russian and Ukrainian parliaments.

In return for the lease extension, which may be extended for an additional five years, Ukraine will receive a 30% discount on Russian natural gas that will be worth an estimated $40 billion.

"This decision was taken by Ukraine alone and it does not affect our European prospects," said Ukrainian Foreign Minister Kostyantyn Hryshchenko, a former ambassador to Russia.

"The international community views this decision as a step stabilizing the situation regarding bilateral relations [with Russia] and in the Ukrainian economy," he said at a news conference.

Last week, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the extension of Russia's lease on its Black Sea Fleet base was a "bilateral agreement" and would not affect NATO's relations with Moscow and Kiev.

The base deal demonstrates the new atmosphere of cooperation between Russia and Ukraine, after relations plunged to post-Soviet lows under the previous president, Viktor Yushchenko.

Ukraine's new President Viktor Yanukovych was elected on a pledge to steer a more balanced policy toward Russia than his predecessor, and the foreign minister expected more bilateral issues to be resolved in the short-term.

"I think that with the change of this atmosphere and the change of the direction of political will we will be able to resolve these issues in the near future," Hryshchenko said.