Ukraine's president appeared to rule out Thursday a revision of agreements governing Russian naval bases in the south of his country only hours after a deputy foreign minister had suggested that the rent could be raised in retaliation for an increase in Russian natural gas prices earlier in the year.

President Viktor Yushchenko said the provisions of the 1997 agreements, which divided the Soviet Black Sea Fleet, had to be implemented. The Russian navy currently pays an annual rate of $93 million to remain in the Crimean port of Sevastopol until 2017.

Yushchenko said a bilateral commission was currently discussing a number of disputed issues, including 170 plots and more than 100 facilities, which Russia was allegedly using "for purposes other than those [stipulated in the agreements]."

"We will defend legal interests of the nation and the state," Yushchenko said, RIA Novosty reported.

Earlier Deputy Foreign Minister Volodymyr Ogryzko said a rise in rent for Russian navy facilities in the country was possible by comparing the move with a decision by Russian energy giant Gazprom to increase the prices the country paid for imported natural gas.

"If Russia considers it possible to revise the price for gas, Ukraine has the right to propose a revision in the rent [for the base]," he said.

"We have started the process [of raising the price], and will complete it," he said.

After Gazprom sought a significant increase in the price it charged Ukraine for Russian natural gas at the end of last year, Kiev threatened to increase the rent to $1.8 billion. It also demanded that the Russian navy surrender lighthouses and other property along the Crimean coast, claiming they were not part of the fleet agreement.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Anatoliy Hrytsenko said in February that Russia's Black Sea Fleet must withdraw from Ukrainian territory by 2017.


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