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Russia/Ukraine: Presidents Agree On Division Of Black Sea Fleet

Moscow, 24 October 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma reached an agreement today on all aspects of the division of the Black Sea Fleet.

The two presidents held a half-hour discussion at the Barvikha sanatorium near Moscow where Yeltsin is preparing for heart surgery, planned for next month.

Speaking at a press conference following the meeting, Yeltsin spokesman Sergey Yastrzhembsky said Yeltsin and Kuchma had resolved all the problems concerning the division of the fleet between Russia and Ukraine and the status of the strategic port city of Sevastopol.

Yastrzhembsky said the two presidents also agreed that before mid-November, Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin would travel to Kyiv to sign a formal agreement on the division of the fleet and the solution of pending financial problems.

Yastrzhembsky did not give details of the agreement, but said Yeltsin and Kuchma had reached what he called "a compromise decision." And he said Yeltsin had promised Kuchma that his first official visit after he had recovered from heart surgery would be to Kyiv to sign a long-awaited friendship relations agreement. Yeltsin has in the past cancelled several planned trips to Kyiv because of the dispute.

Just before the two presidents met, Russia's State Duma had warned Ukraine that Russia would never hand over control of the Crimean port city of Sevastopol, home to the fleet. The Duma appeal came just a day after deputies voted overwhelmingly to halt the division of the 600-vessel fleet.