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Russia has no plans to boost its Black Sea naval group

Russia will not reinforce its naval group in the Black Sea, the deputy chief of Russia's General Staff said Wednesday.
MOSCOW, August 27 (RIA Novosti) - Russia will not reinforce its naval group in the Black Sea, the deputy chief of Russia's General Staff said Wednesday.

"We are not planning to increase our Black Sea naval group, although Russia has the ability," Anatoly Nogovitsyn said, commenting on an increase in NATO ships in the Black Sea.

Russia is concerned by NATO's buildup, and Nogovitsyn said the Black Sea Fleet had started monitoring the deployment of its warships.

"Amid NATO's strengthening of its Black Sea deployments, the fleet has started observing its moves," he said.

The military alliance announced its decision to deliver humanitarian aid to Georgia after the conclusion of hostilities between Tbilisi and Moscow over breakaway South Ossetia on August 12. Moscow recognized on Tuesday both South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another breakaway Georgia republic, despite being urged by Western leaders not to do so.

Russia's General Staff said Tuesday there were 10 NATO ships in the Black Sea - three U.S. warships, the Polish frigate General Pulaski, the German frigate FGS Lubeck, and the Spanish navy ship Admiral Juan de Borbon, as well as four Turkish vessels.

Nogovitsyn warned that NATO had no right to increase endlessly its deployments in the Black Sea, referring to the Montreux convention of 1936. The document gives Turkey control over the Bosporus and regulates military activity in the region.

Commenting on Ukraine's statement that Russia should be prepared to withdraw its fleet from the naval base in Sevastopol, the Defense Ministry official said Russia had no plans to do so until the bilateral agreement on the base's lease expires in 2017.

"We [Russia] have a bilateral agreement with Ukraine, which we have not violated in any way and which states the terms of our fleet's presence," Nogovitsyn said.

Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko told Reuters on Wednesday that Ukraine could raise the issue of increasing the rent for Russia's fleet. He also expressed regret that Russia had moved to recognize the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and promised to discuss "the issues" with Russia.

Captain Igor Dygalo, an aide to Russia's naval commander, said Wednesday that Russian Black Sea fleet vessels led by the Moskva missile cruiser had arrived in Sukhumi at the invitation of Abkhazia's president.

Nogovitsyn said Tuesday that the Moskva was undergoing weaponry and communications tests at sea and would be back at its Sevastopol base by the end of the day.

Vice Adm. Sergei Menyailo, commander of the Novorossiisk naval base, said Wednesday that the Russian naval group, including the Moskva, was sufficient to maintain peace in the waters off Abkhazia.

"We are controlling territorial waters and the adjacent area, ensuring shipping safety, and preventing the smuggling of arms and military vehicles," he said. "We are not planning to increase the number of our ships there, but everything depends on regional stability."

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