Envoy Says Black Sea Fleet Might Stay

A Russian envoy said Wednesday that Russia could continue to base its Black Sea Fleet in Ukraine after a lease deal runs out in 2017, defying Kiev, which says it does not want an extension.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko last week ordered his government to prepare legislation on ending the Russian Navy's presence in the port of Sevastopol in 2017, prompting complaints from Moscow that he was being hasty.

"We have never concealed our willingness to keep our presence in Sevastopol after 2017," said Russian envoy Vladimir Dorokhin, who has been involved in Black Sea Fleet talks with Ukraine. "It has been there for 225 years, and it's only natural … that this area is ideal for its deployment.

"We don't understand this haste," he said. "Why do they think we need nine years for the fleet's withdrawal? Why not 15 years or five, or four? In the end, this is our fleet, yes? So this must be our headache."