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Ukraine/Russia: Black Sea Agreement May Be Signed Next Month

Washington, 22 October 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Ukraine's Foreign Minister Hennady Udovenko says Kyiv hopes to sign an agreement with Moscow next month to end a dispute over the Black Sea fleet.

Udovenko made the comment today in Washington. He said Ukrainian and Russian diplomats are talking "almost every day" in an attempt to reach an agreement.

Udovenko said talks include "the division of the Black Sea fleet, the location of the Russian (fleet), (and) Ukrainian territorial conditions." He said Ukraine hopes Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin will visit Kyiv by the middle of next month to sign an agreement.

Udovenko acknowledged that the talks are complicated by opposition within Russia. Russian politicians have particularly opposed Ukraine's sovereignty over Sevastopol, which became part of Ukraine in the 1950s, and is the current base for the fleet.

Today, a Russian newspaper published an open letter from Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov calling for Russian sovereignty over the Crimean port city. The letter, sent to Russian President Boris Yeltsin last week, said that without Sevastopol, Russian defenses would be weakened.

A Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman told Itar-Tass that Luzhkov's letter was "destructive, hopeless, and adventurous."