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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Federation Council: Sevastopol Needs Joint Rule

Russia's upper house of parliament asked President Boris Yeltsin on Thursday to back its idea of making the disputed Black Sea naval port of Sevastopol an autonomous territory jointly governed by Russia and Ukraine.

The Federation Council made the request, which is likely to anger Ukraine, in a unanimously approved list of initiatives on how to solve one of the most acute problems facing the neighbors.

"The Federation Council asks the Russian president to consider the possibility of jointly governing Sevastopol as a separate territorial unit with a special international status," the document said.

It added that an appropriate treaty should be worked out with Ukraine, which Yeltsin plans to visit in June.

The status of Sevastopol, a city and naval base on Ukraine's Crimean peninsula which now hosts both Russian and Ukrainian parts of the former Soviet Black Sea fleet, has become a major obstacle to improved relations between Moscow and Kiev.

Russia is keen to keep its warships in Sevastopol, built by Catherine the Great in the 18th century, and wants Kiev to use another port.

Ukraine argues that it is Russia that should find another base but says it is ready to discuss leasing some of the city's harbors and parts of the base's infrastructure to Russia.

Yeltsin has said that Russia has no territorial problems with Kiev and that any deal on the Black Sea fleet should assume that the largely Russian-populated Crimea is part of Ukraine.

But the Federation Council publicly laid claim to Sevastopol last December, saying Kiev had no legal right to govern it, in a move that caused a storm of protest in Kiev.

The council members have argued that after Crimea, part of the Soviet Union, was transferred in a largely symbolic gesture from Russia to Ukraine in 1954, Sevastopol had retained its status as a special territory governed directly from Moscow.

Thursday's move by the upper house appeared to be a step back from an outright claim on the port.