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Ukraine, Russia to hold new round of talks on Black Sea Fleet

Ukraine, Russia to hold new round of talks on Black Sea Fleet 25.09.2008 Source: en.rian.ru

Ukrainian and Russian delegations will hold a new round of discussions on Thursday in Kiev on the role of Russia's Crimean naval base in the Georgia conflict, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said.

Russia-Ukraine tensions heightened after several Black Sea Fleet warships, based in Sevastopol in Ukraine's Crimea, dropped anchor off the Georgian coast during and after last month's armed conflict with Georgia over breakaway South Ossetia.

Ukraine "will draw the attention of the Russian side to the need to follow decrees issued by the Ukrainian president... Outside the zone of its temporary deployment, the Russian Black Sea Feet must comply with the existing laws of Ukraine," the ministry said.

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.

Russia said Yushchenko's comments were at odds with bilateral agreements on the Black Sea Fleet's presence in Ukraine.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said in late August that international agreements on the Black Sea Fleet take precedence over Ukrainian presidential decrees.

Under a bilateral treaty, Russia's Black Sea Fleet is to be withdrawn from its base in Sevastopol after 2017. Russia has repeatedly said it would like to extend the lease.

In a bid to extend the lease, Russia may submit an array of attractive proposals to Ukraine, the Russian defense minister said on Tuesday.

"We are ready to submit an array of proposals that would be beneficial for both countries," Anatoly Serdyukov said.

Commenting on Serdyukov's statement, Vyacheslav Popov, a former commander of the Northern Fleet who now sits in the upper house of Russia's parliament, said on Wednesday that Moscow may offer Ukraine contracts to build aircraft carriers for the Russian Navy.

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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