Putin Signs Law Terminating Black Sea Fleet Agreements with Ukraine© RIA Novosti. Mikhail Klimenteev
MOSCOW, April 2 (RIA Novosti) - Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law invalidating four bilateral agreements with Ukraine providing for the basing of the Black Sea Fleet, the Kremlin said Wednesday.
The measures to be scrapped include a 1997 agreement on the conditions of the fleet's stay in Crimea, which was extended by 25 years in a 2010 deal by Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted as a result of a coup in February.
The Russian Black Sea Fleet is headquartered in Sevastopol, a city with a special status within Crimea. As part of the agreements on its basing rights, Russia paid the Ukrainian government $530 million annually for the base, and wrote off nearly $100 million of Kiev's debt for the right to use Ukrainian waters.
The law also invalidates the fourth agreement between Moscow and Kiev, under which Russia granted Ukraine a $100 discount for Russian gas by lifting taxes levied for the Russian state budget.
The price for Ukraine is expected to rise to $485.50 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas after the Russian government issues an official resolution.
The Kremlin said last month that there were no legal grounds for the continuation of the discount premised on the continuation of a basing agreement for Russia's Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol, which is no longer part of Ukraine.
Russian energy giant Gazprom said Tuesday it would increase gas prices for Ukraine by $100 to $385.50 per 1,000 cubic meters from April 1 as the crisis-hit country had failed to pay for last year's deliveries, Prime business news agency reported.
The draft law on terminating the Black Sea Fleet deal was introduced in the State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, by Putin on March 28 following Crimea's reunification with Russia. Russia's upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, voted Tuesday to end the Black Sea Fleet agreements with Ukraine.
Ukraine's overall debt to Russia after the termination of the 1997 and 2010 Black Sea Fleet agreements stands at up to $11 billion, Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin said Tuesday.
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If attempts to drag Russia into a direct military conflict in Ukraine are successful, it would be a catastrophe for Russia comparable to the 1979-1989 Afghan war. There is no direct evidence that the US is trying to bring about a second Afghan war, but indirect evidence abounds.