Ukraine president orders Sevastopol base conversion after 2017
Gives a special governmental working group two months
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko gave on Friday a special governmental working group two months to prepare proposals for the civilian use of the Sevastopol naval base after 2017, according to RIA Novosti.
"Prepare a list of proposals for the civilian use of the infrastructure in Sevastopol Harbor after 2017," the decree issued by the president said.
Russia`s Black Sea Fleet uses a range of naval facilities in Ukraine`s Crimea, including the main base in Sevastopol, as part of a 1997 agreement, under which Ukraine agreed to lease the bases to Russia until 2017.
Yushchenko announced in the summer that Ukraine would not extend the lease of the Sevastopol base beyond 2017, and urged the Russian fleet to start preparations for a withdrawal.
Although the agreement for Russia`s use of the base includes a possible extension of the lease, and Moscow has repeatedly said it wants negotiations on the issue, Ukraine reiterated its position in October that it would not permit an extension of Russia`s naval presence in the country after 2017.
The sides agreed on December 15 to hold the next meeting of a subcommittee on the Black Sea Fleet at the level of deputy foreign ministers in February-March 2009 in Kiev.
Meanwhile, Russia is considering opening a base at Ochamchira, a seaside town in the separatist Georgian republic of Abkhazia, which has been recently recognized by Russia as an independent state, as a possible replacement for the Sevastopol base.