With the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1992, a process began of dividing the commonly held assets of the Soviet republics between newly independent states. The two most important of these new states, Russia and Ukraine, had much to divide between them. Western observers began to worry that disputes between the two countries over the transfer of Soviet nuclear weapons to Russia, the final legal status of Crimea, and the possession of the Black Sea Fleet (hereafter denoted as "BSF") and its home port of Sevastopol could escalate into a crisis with violent consequences. Yet after five years of public posturing, stalemate, and stop-&-go diplomatic negotiations, Ukraine and Russia reached an agreement, signed by Ukrainian Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko and Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on May 28, 1997. While it was expected that Russian President Boris Yeltsin would sign the Russian-Ukrainian Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Partnership, few senior Ukrainian officials believed that a separate BSF agreement could be reached. It was also surprising that Moscow had accepted conditions similar to those it had rejected in October, 1996.