Saturday, May 31, 2008

Navy Chief Says Russia Could Have 100 Warships In Ukraine

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan -- The Russian Navy commander said on Friday the Black Sea Fleet could increase the number of warships at its base in Sevastopol, in Ukraine's Crimea, to 100.

Russian Navy commander, Admiral Vladimir Vysotsky.

"The base agreement enables us to have up to 100 warships in the Black Sea Fleet, compared to the current figure of only 35; we may also have up to 25,000 personnel, while currently we only have 11,000," Admiral Vladimir Vysotsky told reporters in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan.

He said Russia needs the Black Sea Fleet to protect its national interests.

"Russia has strategic interests in the world's oceans, and it will defend them. We will be enlarging our presence."

"The Black Sea Fleet will remain in any event. And it will not simply remain, but will develop," he said, adding that Russia does not intend to withdraw its fleet from Sevastopol before the base agreement expires in 2017.

The Black Sea Fleet currently uses a range of naval facilities on the Crimean peninsula under an agreement signed in 1997. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko recently ruled not to extend the lease for Russia's Black Sea Fleet beyond May 28, 2017.

Frequent disputes have flared up between Russia and Ukraine over the lease of the naval facilities on the Crimean peninsula. In the latest row, Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov was barred from entering the former Soviet republic over his vociferous calls for the disputed ownership of a Russian naval base in Sevastopol to be transferred back to Russia.

Ukraine has been seeking NATO membership and EU integration ever since pro-Western President Yushchenko came to power on the back of the "orange revolution" in 2004.

Russia has repeatedly dismissed Ukraine's NATO bid as a violation of bilateral friendship agreements and said it will do all in its power to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO.

Admiral Vysotsky arrived in Kyrgyzstan on Thursday to discuss the expansion of military-technical cooperation and strengthening of regional security with Kyrgyz top military officials.

Russia currently has 41 intergovernmental agreements with Kyrgyzstan on security cooperation. Both countries are members of the two major regional security blocs in Central Asia - the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

Source: RIA Novosti

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