Yushchenko: for Ukraine, decision of Russia is unacceptable (Update)

12:29, 27 August 2008
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The Ukraine President spoke to Reuters

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko called Russia’s decision to recognise two Georgian rebel regions unacceptable on Wednesday and threatened to raise the issue of a rent increase at a base for the Black Sea Fleet.

Saying any country which was not part of international security agreements could be next to feel Russia’s military might, Yushchenko said Ukraine must increase its defences and push its bid for membership of the NATO military alliance.

”We regret this decision, for Ukraine it is unacceptable and therefore we cannot support this position,” Yushchenko told Reuters in an interview.

”What has happened is a threat to everyone, not just for one country. Any nation could be next, any country. When we allow someone to ignore the fundamental right of territorial integrity, we put into doubt the existence of any country.”

In remarks bound to anger Moscow, Yushchenko said Ukraine had leased the base at the Crimean port of Sevastopol at below-market rates and it was time to think about raising the price.

”(We need to) raise the question about the lease payment, and new financial conditions because those old conditions were set when there was no market for land deals ... and assets which the Russian fleet uses were not considered as assets which must be paid for,” he said.

”We need to do prevent Ukraine becoming involved in a military conflict ... We don’t intend to allow troops, which could be used in military action with a third or fourth country, to use our territory as a base.”

Under a 1997 pact, Russia leases the Sevastopol base until 2017 for an annual fee of $98m.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said on Wednesday Russia might have its eye on other neighbouring countries such as Ukraine and Moldova after its armed forces stormed Georgia.

Russia’s armed forces overpowered Georgia’s troops earlier this month after Tbilisi tried to retake control of the breakaway region of South Ossetia.

Russian troops continue to occupy parts of Georgia, and Moscow recognised South Ossetia and another rebel region of Georgia, Abkhazia, as independent states on Tuesday, prompting strong criticism from France and other Western powers.

Mr Kouchner told Europe 1 radio the situation was ”very dangerous” and there were “other objectives that one can suppose are objectives for Russia, in particular the Crimea, Ukraine and Moldova.”

As in the case of Georgia, Ukraine’s pro-western president wants his country to join NATO, a move away from Moscow’s sphere of influence which has angered the Kremlin. It also has a large Russian-speaking population, but is much bigger than Georgia.

The leaders of the European Union’s member states are due to hold an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss their response to Russia’s actions, but Mr Kouchner would not be drawn on what decisions they might take.

”The 27 heads of state will obviously react,” Mr Kouchner said.

”The European Union, the 27 countries, 500m people, Europe’s economic power, must manifest themselves in this crisis to stop it and negotiate a political solution,” he added.

Reuters via Financial Times

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