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Ukraine Could Take Hard Line On Crimea Bases

(RFE/RL) 20 December 2005 -- Amid a dispute with Russia over gas imports, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko said today Moscow should pay more rent for use of Black Sea ports for the Russian Fleet.

Moscow wants to raise more than four times the price for gas deliveries to Ukraine, It has been paying $50 per 1,000 cubic meters in exchange for the transit of Russian gas through its territory to western Europe. Ukraine wants the increase to be phased over five years, a demand Russia has rejected.

Talks between the two countries' prime ministers yesterday failed to resolve the gas issue.

Yushchenko said if Russia was going to take such an inflexible position concerning its gas exports then Ukraine was justified in taking a hard line on Russia's use of Ukrainian ports in the Crimea.

"We are coming to an understanding that all our economic relations [with Russia] should be in accordance with international standards, with European standards. Therefore, when we are talking about the financial aspects of leasing Ukrainian ports and land [to Russia] and the temporary stationing of Russia's Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol, we are undoubtedly talking about a similar approach," Yushchenko said.

Russia currently pays some $98 million annually for renting the naval base at Sevastopol.