Ukraine condemns Russian move on Georgian regions

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The Independent Online

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko called Russia's decision to recognise two Georgian rebel regions unacceptable today and threatened to raise the issue of a rent increase at a base for the Black Sea Fleet.

Saying any country which was not part of international security agreements could be next to feel Russia's military might, Yushchenko said Ukraine must increase its defences and push its bid for membership of the Nato military alliance.

"We regret this decision, for Ukraine it is unacceptable and therefore we cannot support this position," Yushchenko told Reuters in an interview.

"What has happened is a threat to everyone, not just for one country. Any nation could be next, any country. When we allow someone to ignore the fundamental right of territorial integrity, we put into doubt the existence of any country."

In remarks bound to anger Moscow, Yushchenko said Ukraine had leased the base at the Crimean port of Sevastopol at below-market rates and it was time to think about raising the price.

"(We need to) raise the question about the lease payment, and new financial conditions because those old conditions were set when there was no market for land deals ... and assets which the Russian fleet uses were not considered as assets which must be paid for," he said.

"We need to do prevent Ukraine becoming involved in a military conflict ... We don't intend to allow troops, which could be used in military action with a third or fourth country, to use our territory as a base."

Under a 1997 pact, Russia leases the Sevastopol base until 2017 for an annual fee of $98m.