Moscow and Kiev hold fire on fleet

RUSSIA and Ukraine agreed yesterday to postpone the problem of how to divide up the spoils of the 300-ship Soviet Black Sea fleet by placing it under a joint Russian- Ukrainian command for the next three years.

President Boris Yeltsin and Leonid Kravchuk, Ukraine's leader, announced they had agreed on the transition period after a meeting in the Crimea. Mr Yeltsin forecast that in three years relations betweenthe two states will have improved, allowing an amicable division. 'Society will get over its illness and there will be other realities,' he said. The agreement also proved that talk of the imminent collapse of the Commonwealth of Independent States was wrong, he added.

The problem of how to divide up the fleet has caused great friction between Moscow and Kiev, becoming a symbol of their many differences as they try to disengage themselves from the single political and economic unit that was the Soviet Union.

In a news conference after the talks at Mukhalatka, Mr Kravchuk said the two men would appoint the fleet's top command, which traditionally is Russian. 'The decision is important, well thought out and in accordance with the situation in Russia, Ukraine and Crimea and will calm the officers and ease the situation between the two countries,' he said.

The two presidents also moved closer toward a broad friendship treaty, ordering their ministers to prepare a final draft that would include co-ordination of prices for grain, sugar and oil.

Whether postponing the division of the fleet will solve some of the morale problems remains to be seen. Ukrainian officers have complained of discrimination in the fleet in favour of Russians. Thirty-one per cent of the officers and 61 per cent of the sailors are Ukrainian. The Ukrainian officers say they are treated unequally for promotion, shore leave and housing for their families.

The Russian commanders will have to give up senior positions if the joint command is to be seen to be fair. And the Ukrainians will have to give up their claims to control of the base facilities, which are on Ukrainian territory.

In addition, there is the question of who will pay for the fleet's operation during the transition period. Ukraine officials say they have been paying most of the bills since January in anticipation of taking over most of the fleet.

Even so, the doomsayers who predicted the Mukhalatka talks would result in no agreement appear to have been proved wrong. The critics had based their forecasts on the increasing tensions in the fleet after a coastguard vessel last month hoisted the Ukrainian flag instead of the Soviet ensign and defected from its base to the Ukrainian port of Odessa.

The two sides have agreed not raise their national flags until they decide how to share out the fleet. Most of the 45 large ships are so old that they are expected to be sold for scrap.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk