Russia, Ukraine To Split Fleet

Russia and Ukraine promised Thursday to sign an agreement splitting the Black Sea fleet, attempting to thwart legislators interested in keeping the entire fleet under Russian command.

Details on the agreement between Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma were scarce. But the plan faces an immediate hurdle: Russian lawmakers gave overwhelming approval this week to a bill which claimed the entire navy as Russia’s property.

“Our thousand-year history confirms that we must live in peace and agreement,” Kuchma said at a news conference after the talks.

The dispute over the fleet, which was founded by Catherine the Great, has clouded relations between the two countries since the collapse of the Soviet Union. and prevented them from signing a friendship and cooperation treaty.

Yeltsin promised to go to Ukraine to sign the pact after his surgery, set for mid-November. The fleet of more than 300 ships served as the Soviet counterbalance to the U.S. 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean during the Cold War.

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