MOSCOW, April 2 (RAPSI) – Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a law voiding the bilateral Russian-Ukrainian treaties concerning the deployment of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Ukraine, the Kremlin’s press service announced Wednesday .

Ukraine proclaimed its withdrawal from the USSR in 1991. In April 1994, Russia’s then-president Boris Yeltsin and Ukrainian leader Leonid Kuchma signed an agreement delineating the locations of the Ukrainian and Russian navies.

On May 28, 1997, Russia and Ukraine signed three agreements aimed at settling the legal terms of the Black Sea Fleet’s location in Sevastopol.

Based on the agreements, Russia gained the right to lease Ukrainian land in Crimea and maintain a military base in Sevastopol in exchange for an annual payment of $97.75 million.

The agreements had been set to expire in 2017, when in April 2010 they were prolonged for an additional 25 years, through 2042. A new agreement was ratified by both the Ukrainian and Russian parliaments on April 27.

Crimea, a largely Russian-speaking republic within Ukraine, was part of Russia until it was handed over to Ukraine by former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in 1954.

Crimea moved for independence from Ukraine in the aftermath of escalating clashes in Kiev and the flight of Viktor Yanukovich from the country. Crimea held a referendum on breaking away from Ukraine with 93% of voters backing independence from Ukraine and accession to Russia.

On March 17, President Putin signed a decree recognizing Crimea as an independent state. In his official address to federal and regional officials he said that Khrushchev’s decision had been made with clear violations of the constitutional norms at the time.

The same day, leaders of Crimea and the city of Sevastapol and Putin signed a treaty unifying Crimea with Russia.