Russian Official Says Ukraine Has No Right To Increase Fleet Rent

MOSCOW, Russia -- A Russian official said Sunday that Ukraine does not have the right to demand that Russia pay more money to base its Black Sea Fleet in a Ukrainian port.

Russian Black Sea Fleet

Ukraine has said it plans to start charging a market rate for the Black Sea Fleet base. Some officials suggest Moscow could be asked to pay up to 20 times as much.

Vladimir Dorokhin of the Russian Foreign Ministry said that a 1997 agreement that divided up the Soviet Black Sea Fleet between Ukraine and Russia and granted Moscow a 20-year lease on the base until 2017 could not be violated.

"These fundamental points - the length of time the fleet can be based in Ukraine and the amount of rent, are not negotiable," he said in a Foreign Ministry statement. He called for the two countries' discussions on the Russian Black Sea Fleet to be "depoliticized."

Under the 1997 agreement, the Russian navy was allowed to remain in the Sevastopol port until 2017, charged an annual rent of US$93 million.

Ties between Moscow and Kyiv have been increasingly tense under Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko, who has tried to shake off Russian influence in his former Soviet nation since he came to power early last year.

Last month, Ukraine agreed to pay double the price for gas after a bitter pricing dispute with Russia, which briefly cut off supplies to its neighbor.

A special commission set up between the presidents of both countries to deal with bilateral issues is due to discuss the Black Sea Fleet's status this week.

Source: AP

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