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Ukraine reiterates 2017 end for Russian lease on Black Sea base

24.10.2008 Source: en.rian.ru

A Ukrainian warship, the Ternopil, will join the NATO-led Operation Active Endeavor naval antiterrorism exercise in November, the Ukrainian Navy's press service said on Thursday.

The Ternopil (U209), a Grisha V class anti-submarine corvette of the Ukrainian Navy, will join the operation in the Mediterranean and remain under NATO's operational command for 30 days, after which it will return to its base in Sevastopol.

Following the armed conflict in Georgia, the United States has refused to let Russian ships participate in Active Endeavor.

Active Endeavour operates in the Mediterranean Sea and is designed to prevent the movement of terrorists or weapons of mass destruction, as well as to enhance the security of shipping in general.

Ukraine has reiterated its position that it will not permit an extension of Russia's naval presence at its Sevastopol base after 2017, the country's Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.

Under bilateral agreements, Russia's Black Sea Fleet has the use of the Crimean Sevastopol base until 2017. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko announced in the summer that Ukraine would not extend the lease beyond that date.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday that Moscow would be ready to discuss the extension of its naval presence in Sevastopol, Ukraine "at a later stage."

"The position of our country remains immutable: Russia's Black Sea Fleet must leave Ukraine's territory after May 28, 2017," a ministry spokesman said.

He added that Ukraine's Constitution did not permit the establishment of foreign military bases on its soil.

Yushchenko has called for the Russian navy's early withdrawal from the Sevastopol base, as well as tougher deployment requirements and higher fees, demands that have not been backed by his former coalition ally, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov has also ruled out the possibility of extending the lease.

Tensions between Russia and Ukraine rose after several Black Sea Fleet warships dropped anchor off the Georgian coast during and after August's armed conflict with Tbilisi over breakaway South Ossetia.

In a bid to appease Kiev, Russia has said it may submit an array of attractive proposals to Ukraine.

Russia's naval base in the Crimea currently has 50 warships and patrol boats, along with around 80 aircraft, and employs coastal defense troops.

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