Grachev Begins Black Sea Fleet Talks on Crimea
KIEV, Ukraine (AP) _ Hoping to resolve a three-year dispute, the Russian and Ukrainian defense ministers tried to finalize a deal today over the Black Sea Fleet, a crown jewel of the former Soviet navy.
But Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev said he did not expect the two- day talks to yield a final settlement on the fleet, which has divided the two former republics since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.
Four previous accords failed.
Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Ukrainain President Leonid Kravchuk last week agreed Ukraine would get from 15-20 percent of the 440-ship fleet, the Soviet counterbalance to the U.S. 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean.
Grachev and Ukrainian counterpart Vitaly Radetsky met today at fleet headquarters in Sevastopol, but disagreements remained over how to split resources and bases, particularly the main base at Sevastopol.
In the most recent clash over the fleet, a Russian ship this month removed navigational equipment from a base in Odessa despite protests from the Ukrainian navy.
Moscow then accused Ukrainian special forces of storming the base, beating civilians, arresting officers and demanding that personnel swear allegiance to Kiev or be expelled from the base.
Moscow has proposed that the fleet’s strategic vessels, such as anti- submarine ships and warships, go to Russia, according to the Interfax news agency. Tactical vessels, such as patrol boats and minesweepers, would go to Ukraine.
That may not sit well with Ukraine, which has said it will claim some of the fleet’s biggest ships.
Many in the Ukrainian military are also upset at possibly having to leave Sevastopol, on the Crimean Peninsula, the biggest and best-equipped base and home to fleet officers.