Photo from UNIAN

The Security Service of Ukraine has launched criminal proceedings into the signing of the Kharkiv Accords on prolongation of the Russian Black Sea Fleet's stay in Crimea and their ratification by the Verkhovna Rada back in 2010.

According to the SBU press service, the agency's Main Investigation Department began a pre-trial probe into high treason committed in the period from 2008 to 2010.

"Criminal proceedings have been opened against state officials," the message says.

Read alsoUN tells of human rights violations in occupied CrimeaInvestigators are looking into the circumstances of preparation and signing of the "Agreement between Ukraine and the Russian Federation on the stay of the Russian Black Sea Fleet on the territory of Ukraine until 2042" of April 21, 2010, as well as compliance with the regulations and procedures during its ratification by Parliament.

According to preliminary investigation data, the signing of the deal led to an increase in the number of Russian military personnel and security services' operatives in Crimea, subsequently involved in the annexation of the peninsula.

Futher investigative and procedural actions are underway.

Kharkiv Accords: Background

On April 21, 2010, in Kharkiv, the-then Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and the-then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed an agreement between Ukraine and the Russian Federation extending the stay of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Crimea's Sevastopol from 2017 to 2042 with the right of further extension for another five years – all in exchange for "cheap" gas for Ukraine.

On January 28, 2021, Yanukovych was charged with high treason in connection with the signing of the said deal. Investigators believe that by signing the agreement, he artificially created conditions for upping Russia's military presence in Ukraine and undermining the country's defense capabilities.

According to the investigation, prior to the signing, the price of Russian gas for Ukraine was twice artificially inflated: as of the end of 2008, the price per 1,000 cubic meters was $179.5, while in late 2010 it stood at $352.33.

Law enforcement say the Russian Federation first artificially created and accumulated Ukraine's debt for gas supplies, and then, as part of repayment, including by allegedly reducing it, deployed the Russian Black Sea Fleet on the territory of Ukraine free of charge.

As a result of the Kharkiv Agreements signed by the ex-president, the Russian military contingent on the territory of Ukraine saw an increase instead of preparations for its reduction and pullout.