A fair payment for renting Sevastopol and other Crimean ports by Russian naval fleet would probably be at $1.8 bln annually, a top security advisor to President Viktor Yushchenko said Thursday, Ukrainian Journal reported.

This is the first official assessment of possible annual rent payment that Ukraine may seek to charge Russia for stationing about 300 its Black Sea Fleet ships in Ukraine. Russia has been paying $97 mln annually since 1997.

Anatoliy Kinakh, the secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, said an appraisal of property and facilities used by the BSF will be conducted in the near future to estimate the payment.

Kinakh said the $1.8 bln figure had been preliminary calculated by the State Land Resources Committee.

Defense Minister Anatoliy Hrytsenko has earlier suggested the rent may increase to $400 mln annually.

“Besides, there are a great number of objects that have not been included in base agreements,” Kinakh said after a council meeting on the issue. “For example, preliminary inventory has shown that that some 148 hectares of property [used by the BSF] is not covered by any agreements.”

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, seen by analysts as the most likely successor to Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2008, has repeatedly rejected the possibility of increasing the rent payments.

Russia is stationing its ships in Ukraine according to a 20-year agreement that had been signed in 1996.

According to the agreement, the money that Russia pays, $97 mln annually, does not even change hands as it goes directly to clear Ukraine’s $1.94 bln natural gas debt incurred in early 1990s.

Ukraine and Russia are supposed to discuss the issue of BSF next week at a meeting of the Yushchenko-Putin commission, a body set up recently to tackle some of the most difficult issues in relations between the two countries.


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