Ukraine FM Demands Full Withdrawal Of Russian Black Sea Fleet From Crimea

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine is not considering the possibility of extending the period for the presence of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in the Crimea after May 28, 2017, the Foreign Ministry said on Saturday.

Sailors of the Russian Black Sea Fleet

It said the Russian Black Sea Fleet would have to be withdrawn from Ukraine completely by that time.

“The Russian side is well aware of Ukraine’s position on this issue that is based on the provisions of the Ukrainian Constitution. Under the Constitution, no military bases of other states may be deployed in the territory of Ukraine,” the ministry said.

“On April 14, a memorandum was delivered to the Russian Foreign Ministry, which provides for coordinating systemic comprehensive measures in order to properly ensure the timely withdrawal of the Russian fleet from Ukraine. In order to comply with the required legal procedures, the Ukrainian side has to pass a law that will terminate the operation of the relevant agreements on the status and terms of the presence of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Ukraine from May 28, 2017,” the ministry said.

It expressed hope that “full compliance by the Russian side with the base agreements on the Russian Black Sea Fleet and its withdrawal from the Crimea will become an important step in the strengthening of regional stability and security”.

Meanwhile, the government of Ukraine has started implementing the president’s instructions to draft a law that will terminate all international agreements on the temporary deployment of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Ukraine from 2017.

“The government will act in accordance with international agreements. We are not taking any steps that will either call these agreements into question or will provide for non-compliance with them,” Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko said this week.

“If we are to adhere to international agreements, there are absolutely no reasons for any aggravation [of relations with Russia],” she said.

The prime minister stressed that all procedures that need to be undertaken with regard to the Russian Black Sea Fleet would be “within the system of agreements”.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has instructed the government to prepare a draft law by June 20 that will terminate international agreements on the temporary deployment of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Ukraine from 2017.

He also gave the government two months to assess the consequences of the fleet’s deployment in Ukraine.

However the Russian Foreign Ministry said it would be premature to discuss any deadlines for the presence of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Ukraine.

“The adoption of the decree with hastiness that we find hard to understand cannot facilitate trust between Russia and Ukraine and can adversely affect the talks on the Black Sea Fleet,” the ministry said.

It pointed to the legal framework for the deployment of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Ukraine. “The Black Sea Fleet, the 225th anniversary of which was recently celebrated by Russia and Ukraine, is based in the Crimea in accordance with the so-called base agreements on the fleet signed on May 28, 1997 and ratified by the parliaments of the two states,” the ministry said.

These include the Agreement on the Status and Terms of the Deployment of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation in Ukraine, the Agreement on the Parameters of the Division of the Black Sea Fleet, and the Agreement on Mutual Settlements Associated with the Division of the Black Sea Fleet and the Deployment of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation in Ukraine.

The first two agreements were signed for 20 years. They will be automatically extended for five years unless either party notifies the other party in writing of their end at least one year prior.

Under the latter agreement, Russia reduces Ukraine’s state debt by 97.75 million U.S. dollars every year.

“The Russian side proceeds from the assumption that the Black Sea Fleet of Russia will continue to be based in Ukraine in accordance with the agreements between Russia and Ukraine,” the ministry said. “However the Russian side believes that it is premature to discuss the timeframe for the deployment of the felt now. This issue should be the subject of a Russian-Ukrainian agreement later and considered in the context of the whole range of bilateral relations.”

Moscow believes it necessary to “concentrate on the resolution of practical issues relating to the creation of conditions for the full functioning of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation and its deployment in Ukraine”.

“Such work is underway within the framework of the relevant sub-commission of the Russian-Ukrainian Interstate Commission and its working groups. Preparations for a meeting of the sub-commission are in progress,” the ministry said.

“The presidential decree is all the more unexpected because under the Russia-Ukraine Action Plan up to 2009 approved by the presidents of Russia and Ukraine, the sides have agreed otherwise, specifically to continue the talks on the operation of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation and its deployment in Ukraine within the framework of the abovementioned base agreements in order to achieve concrete agreements regarding primarily the whole range of navigation and hydrographic support for navigation in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, a set of military-political aspects of the fleet’s operation, inventory of the land and real property occupied by the fleet in Ukraine, environmental protection, legal aspects of the operation of the fleet’s military units, the legal status of the servicemen and their dependents, including questions of citizenship,” the ministry said.

Source: ITAR-TASS

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