Fleet Will Never Quit Crimea, Russian Says

MOSCOW, Russia -- Russia's Black Sea Fleet will stay in the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol "forever," its former commander says.

Admiral Igor Kasatonov (R)

Adm. Igor Kasatonov made the vow to the Ukrainian magazine Expert, RIA Novosti reported Saturday.

A year ago, Russia and Ukraine extended the fleet's lease on the Crimean base until 2042.

"The year 2042 is not the final date of the Black Sea Fleet's presence in Crimea. The Russian navy will stay in Sevastopol forever," Kasatonov said.

"Russia will never give up either Sevastopol or the Kuril Islands," he said, referring to the Far Eastern island chain captured from Japan at the end of World War II and still claimed by Tokyo.

Kasatonov also said the fleet needs updated weaponry to meet present and emerging global threats.

The Black Sea Fleet has about 40 operational vessels, but most are slated for decommissioning.

Russia's navy chief, Adm. Vladimir Vysotsky, said last year it would be reinforced with 15 new ships and submarines by 2020.

Source: UPI