Ukraine’s parliament won’t annul agreement on Russian Black Sea Fleet

Russia’s Black Sea Fleet will stay in Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula until 2042 (RIA Novosti / Vladimir Pervencev)
The deputies on Wednesday refused to put a draft bill on the agenda denouncing the accords between Moscow and Kiev on extending the presence of Russia’s fleet.

­The agreement was signed by the presidents of the two countries on April 21, 2010 and was branded as a diplomatic victory for Moscow by many analysts. It envisions that Russia’s Black Sea Fleet will stay in Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula until 2042, rather than 2017 as initially planned. The accord has an option that also allows Russia not to leave its base in Sevastopol until 2047.

The move has effectively cancelled out Kiev’s possible chance of joining NATO as a foreign military base will remain in the country for many years to come. As many in Ukraine welcomed the agreement, the opposition said it breached the country’s constitution and promised to fight it using parliamentary leverages.

One such method was tried on Wednesday, with deputies proposing that the accord on the fleet’s presence should be denounced. However, only 113 MPs in the parliament, the Verkhovnaya Rada, agreed to place the issue on the agenda, while it needed 226 votes.

The proposal was submitted by Andrey Paruby, a deputy from Our Ukraine–People's Self-Defense Bloc. Our Ukraine is the party of former President Viktor Yushchenko, under whom relations between Moscow and Kiev soured considerably.

After the voting, speaker Vladimir Litvin asked the Rada staff not to register such draft bills in the future if they are submitted by deputies. He explained that only the Cabinet of Ministers or the president have the right to initiate the denunciation of Kiev’s international agreements.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on June 5 that the two countries were not going to start “political games” with the fleet. The basic agreement on its presence was not called into question, he noted. However, talks are continuing over issues accompanying this accord.  

Sometimes the absence of legal framework for specific matters creates problems, Lavrov said. But Moscow has the understanding with the current Ukrainian leadership that these issues should be solved professionally without starting some political games, he stressed.

Various details will be agreed in “additional, sectoral, industrial” documents, the minister explained. Some of them will regulate the procedure of movement of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet servicemen in Ukraine from one base to another.

Russia and Ukraine are preparing to hold joint naval exercises in the Black Sea – the first in eight years. The servicemen will train operations modeling peacekeeping efforts.

At the same time, Russia’s Foreign Ministry last week sharply criticized Washington for the entry of the US Monterey guided missile cruiser into the Black Sea. The warship, carrying Aegis missile systems, was taking part in naval maneuvers with Ukraine called Sea Breeze 2011.

Moscow stopped short of condemning Kiev for inviting the cruiser, but asked the US why a warship carrying a missile defense system was needed to participate in training modeling the fight against international piracy.