Tihipko, in Washington for the IMF's annual spring meeting, says Mr. Yanukovych was, "in a very difficult situation," and had "no choice" but to compromise on the fleet issue because of Russia's leverage with excessively high gas prices.
The Deputy Prime Minister, a former presidential candidate, told VOA on the sidelines of the IMF meeting that he wishes the fleet base agreement had been debated publicly before it was signed on Wednesday, but he supported President Yanukovych's decision.
Ukrainian opposition leaders have denounced the deal, which grants Russia a 25 year extension of its Black Sea Fleet base agreement that expires in 2017. Ukraine will in turn be given steep discounts in the price it pays for Russian natural gas.
The interview with Mr. Tihipko was broadcast on the VOA Ukrainian Service Chas Time TV show, which airs six nights a week in Ukraine. The VOA Ukrainian Service has an estimated weekly audience of 3 million people in Ukraine (7.8%). The interview is also available on the VOA Ukrainian Service website, www.VOANews.com/ukrainian.
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