Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet in Kiev on Tuesday with Ukrainian acting Foreign Minister Volodymyr Khandohiy to discuss bilateral relations between the two countries.
According to a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Lavrov and Khandohiy will have a 30-minute one-to-one meeting and will be then joined by the delegations of the two countries’ foreign ministries to continues discussing bilateral issues.
He said that among other issues the top diplomats are set to discuss the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s presence in Ukraine, the delimitation of the Kerch Strait, implementation of large humanitarian projects and other key problems.
Russia’s Black Sea Fleet uses a range of naval facilities in Ukraine’s Crimea, including the main base in Sevastopol, as part of a 1997 agreement under which Ukraine agreed to lease the bases to Russia until 2017. Kiev insists that Russia withdraws its fleet from the Ukrainian territory.
As for the delimitation of the Kerch Strait, the two countries have been in a dispute over their maritime borders since the early 1990s.
Ukraine is insisting a border be drawn in the Kerch Strait, which links the Sea of Azov to the Black Sea, along the administrative boundary that existed between Russia and Ukraine in the former Soviet Union. Russia, however, maintains that inland water areas were not subject to boundaries in the Soviet era, and therefore this principle is not applicable.
In his August 11 letter, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev blamed Kiev for the deterioration in relations between the two former Soviet republics, strained in recent years by gas disputes, Ukraine’s desire to join NATO, and interpretations of the Soviet-era famine in Ukraine. Russia has also accused Ukraine of supplying weapons to Georgia during last year’s war between Russia and Georgia over South Ossetia.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko said in response to the letter that he was “very disappointed” by its “unfriendly nature.” He agreed Russian-Ukrainian ties faced major problems and criticized Medvedev for excluding any possibility that Russia was responsible.