A Russian radio station said Thursday that Ukraine has decided to expel a Russian diplomat who was involved in talks on the presence of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in the country, according to RIA Novosti.
According to the Business FM radio, the Ukrainian parliamentary committee on foreign affairs has informed the Russian Embassy about the decision to expel embassy counselor Vladimir Lysenko.
RIA Novosti could not get a confirmation from the Russian embassy officials. "We do not comment on this information," a staff member at the embassy 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.
Although the agreement on Russia`s use of the base foresees a possible extension of the lease, and Moscow has repeatedly said it wants negotiations on the issue, Ukraine`s leadership insists that it will not permit an extension of Russia`s naval presence in the country after 2017.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko announced last summer that Ukraine would not extend the lease of the Sevastopol base, and urged the Russian fleet to start preparations for a withdrawal.
Kiev believes that the $98 million which Russia pays annually for the lease of the facilities in the Crimea is insufficient. The sum is subtracted from Ukraine`s debt to Russia for supplies of natural gas to the ex-Soviet republic.