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22 May, 2008 12:59

Ukraine may shatter Russia's WTO hopes

Ukraine, which recently joined the World Trade Organisation, has signaled that it wants to possibly block Russia's accession.

The Moscow business daily Kommersant says discussions could indefinitely postpone Russia's membership and become Ukraine's weapon to press for the withdrawal of the Russian Black Sea Fleet from its territory after 2017.

The President of the New Eurasia Foundation Andrey Kortunov believes it may well be the case.

“It’s not very clear what the Ukrainian side is up to but it is clear that the Ukrainian side has got another joker in the stack of cards that it has. It is another leverage that it can use in trying to solve problems in the Russian Federation” commented Kortunov.

The Crimean fleet became a bone of contention between Russia and Ukraine after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

A 1997 agreement divided the fleet between the two countries. The Russian Navy was allowed to remain in the Crimean port of Sevastopol for 20 more years, paying an annual rent of $US 93 million dollars.

Ukraine is working on a draft bill to terminate the Russian Navy’s presence in the port.

Political experts say that Russia, in its turn, may either propose a better deal with Ukraine or reconsider the territorial status of the Crimean Peninsula.