(Apr. 3, 2014) On April 1, 2014, following the adoption of legislation that denounces a set of treaties signed by the State Duma (parliament) between Russia and Ukraine, the Federation Council, which is the upper chamber of the Russian legislature, gave its consent to termination of the treaties. (Press Release, Extraordinary Meeting of the Federation Council Was Held on April 1 [in Russian] (Apr. 1, 2014), Federation Council website.) The treaties had regulated the division of the Black Sea Fleet between these two countries and defined the status of Russian forces in the Crimea. (Bill No. 484131-6 on Termination of Agreements Related to the Presence of the Russian Black Sea Fleet on the Territory of Ukraine [in Russian], Russian State Duma website (last visited Mar. 31, 2014)).
The legislation was initiated by the Russian administration after the Ukrainian Crimean peninsula was successfully admitted to the Russian Federation. The Russian position is that because Crimea is now a part of Russian territory, the circumstances that led to the conclusion of the agreements have ceased to exist, and Russia does not need to have a treaty with a foreign state to discuss the location of the Russian navy within its own borders. (Press Release, Additional Plenary Session of the State Duma on March 31 [in Russian], Russian State Duma website (last visited Mar. 31, 2014).)
The new law makes subject to termination, in addition to three major agreements of May 1997, the so-called Kharkiv Agreement of 2010. This Agreement allowed the Russian navy to stay in Crimea until 2042 and provided for a substantial price discount for natural gas imported from Russia in exchange. (Id.)
Earlier, the Russian Foreign Ministry officially informed the Ukrainian Embassy in Moscow of Russia’s intention to terminate the existing treaties. (Russia Started Denunciation of Bilateral Agreements with Ukraine [in Russian], NEWSRU.COM (Mar. 28, 2014).) The Ukrainian government, which does not recognize the annexation of the Crimea by Russia, stated in response that given the denunciation of the treaties, the presence of the Russian navy in the Crimea will become illegal. (Id.)
Reportedly, during the annexation of the peninsula, Russian flags were raised on 51 Ukrainian naval vessels, Russia took over the personnel and equipment of those Ukrainian military units, and the sailors had expressed their loyalty to Russia and demonstrated willingness to join the Russian armed forces. It appears that about 10 smaller boats, together with some other outdated military equipment, will be returned by Russia to Ukraine. (Russia Will Return Property of Crimean Military Units to Ukraine [in Russian], LENTA.RU (Mar. 28, 2014).)