Vladimir Putin and Leonid Kuchma drove from Belbek Airport to Nakhimov Square in central Sevastopol and laid wreaths at a monument to the defenders of Sevastopol. The Russian and Ukrainian national anthems were played, and sailors from the Russian Navy’s Black Sea Fleet and the Ukrainian Navy marched by.
After that, Mr Putin and Mr Kuchma visited the flagships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet and the Ukrainian Navy – the guided missile cruiser “Moskva” and the frigate “Hetman Sahaidachny”.
Both leaders subsequently addressed a joint news conference on the city’s Grafskaya (Count) Pier. Mr Putin said that Russia attached great importance to the development of the Black Sea Fleet. He stressed that both Ukraine and Russia were interested in preserving the Black Sea Fleet’s base in Sevastopol. There were no plans to modify the final status of the Black Sea Fleet, he added.
Mr Putin said the Black Sea Fleet’s debts to Sevastopol would be completely repaid. He emphasised that bilateral economic relations must be streamlined and said both countries must first of all renounce barter deals.
Acting President Putin also spoke about Russia-NATO relations and stressed that Russia would continue to defend its national interests and pay serious attention to NATO’s possible expansion toward Russian borders.