Russia and Ukraine have agreed to keep the rent for Russia`s base in Sevastopol unchanged, Russia`s deputy foreign minister said between sessions of a joint subcommittee on the Black Sea base on Thursday, according to RIA Novosti.

Russia and Ukraine have also reached an agreement on the inventory of property belonging to Russia`s Black Sea Fleet, based in Ukraine, and have kept the rent of around $100 million a year at its present level.

"The subject of the agreement, the price and time limits are set and subject to implementation," Grigory Karasin said.

The statement comes after Ukrainian media speculation that the fee would be raised to $2 billion caused by Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko`s statement that the sum could be increased in the future.

Russia and Ukraine signed an agreement in 1997 stipulating that the Black Sea Fleet`s main base in Sevastopol, on the Crimean Peninsula, would be leased to Russia for 20 years, with the possibility of extending the term. However, Kiev has been pushing for the closure of the base before this agreement runs out in 2017, in compliance with a previous bilateral agreement.

Russia`s President Vladimir Putin signed a decree in 2003 setting up an alternative naval base for the Black Sea Fleet in Novorossiysk, which the Navy has said will be ready by 2012.

The annual rent of about $100 million is deducted from Ukraine`s debt for Russian energy supplies. In addition to the main base, the Black Sea Fleet maintains two airfields and a ship re-supply facility on the Crimean Peninsula.

On January 18, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Volodymyr Ohryzko handed in a request for Kiev to join NATO`s Membership Action Plan to the alliance`s secretary general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. The Action Plan is a necessary step for countries wishing to eventually become full members of NATO.

Russia reacted strongly, saying any move toward NATO would "exacerbate Russian-Ukrainian relations in many areas".

There has been no confirmation of the fate of the Russian Navy base in Ukraine should the country join NATO before 2017.