Russian base deal ends 5 years of pointless feud - Ukrainian PM
KIEV, April 28 (RIA Novosti) - The deal to extend Russia's use of a naval base in Crimea opens a new page in mutually beneficial cooperation between Kiev and Moscow and leaves behind an era of hostility, Ukraine's prime minister said on Wednesday.
"Our parliament took a historic decision when it ratified the deal on extending the stay of [Russia's] Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol," Mykola Azarov said. "A five-year period of pointless feud with Russia came to an end."
The Russian Navy will now be able to use the base in the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol for 25 years after the current lease expires in 2017. The agreement was ratified by Ukraine's Supreme Rada and the Russian State Duma on Tuesday, and by the Federation Council, the upper house of Russia's parliament, on Wednesday.
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.
Azarov said Kiev had chosen strategic neighborliness and cooperation after the disputes of recent years. "Now we can confidently say that Ukraine will become strong and independent."
The prime minister said that former Ukrainian government led by Yulia Tymoshenko ignored national interests and signed a gas agreement that enslaved Ukraine and had been taking away its independence.
"Under the Tymoshenko deal, there was only one prospect for the Ukrainian economy - bankruptcy," he said.
Azarov added that around 60% of Ukrainians supported ratification and only 20% opposed it. The prime minister said many of the deal's opponents were genuinely deceived and should be informed about the true substance of the agreement and its benefits to Ukraine's economy.
"Extending the period of the Black Sea Fleet's presence does not limit the sovereignty of our state by a fraction, it does not deprive Ukraine of a single inch of Ukrainian land, it does not harm any values of our people, and it does not infringe upon the rights of any citizen," Azarov said.
"But now we have in our hands a catalyst for accelerated economic growth and innovation in the economy," he continued.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visited Kiev on the eve of the ratification vote and proposed creating a nuclear holding company "incorporating production, nuclear engineering, the fuel cycle, and operations in the nuclear fuel sector."
He noted that Russia and Ukraine provide each other with nuclear fuel, so it would be easier to jointly modernize the nuclear sector and expand it to the foreign market.
Russia is also ready to launch into partnerships with Ukraine in the air and shipbuilding spheres, and on Friday the two countries will hold intergovernmental talks to discuss possible joint projects.