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Russia, Ukraine to hold talks on Black Sea Fleet base in Q109

16.12.2008 Source: en.rian.ru

Russia and Ukraine have agreed to hold the next round of talks on the future of Russia's naval facilities in the Crimea in February-March 2009, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Monday.

Moscow and Kiev held a meeting at the level of deputy foreign ministers in Kiev to discuss key issues of bilateral relations, including "the presence and operation of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Ukraine."

"The sides agreed to hold the next meeting of the subcommittee on the Black Sea Fleet in February-March 2009 in Kiev," the ministry said in a press release posted on its website.

Russia's Black Sea Fleet uses a range of naval facilities in Ukraine's Crimea, including the main base in Sevastopol, as part of a 1997 agreement, under which Ukraine agreed to lease the bases to Russia until 2017.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko announced in the summer that Ukraine would not extend the lease of the Sevastopol base beyond 2017, and urged the Russian fleet to start preparations for a withdrawal.

Although the agreement for Russia's use of the base foresees a possible extension of the lease, and Moscow has repeatedly said it wants negotiations on the issue, Ukraine reiterated its position in October that it would not permit an extension of Russia's naval presence in the country after 2017.

Meanwhile, Russia is considering opening a base at Ochamchira, a seaside town in the separatist Georgian republic of Abkhazia, which has been recently recognized by Russia as an independent state, as a possible replacement for the Sevastopol base.

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