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Russia denies planning to move Black Sea Fleet to Abkhazia

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SUKHUMI, August 12 (RIA Novosti) - Moscow has no plans to redeploy its Black Sea Fleet warships from Ukraine to Abkhazia, the Russian defense minister said on Wednesday.

Russia's Black Sea Fleet uses a range of naval facilities in Ukraine's Crimea, including the main base in Sevastopol, as part of a 1997 agreement under which Ukraine agreed to lease the bases to Russia until 2017.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko announced last summer that Ukraine would not extend the lease of the Sevastopol base beyond 2017, and urged the Russian fleet to start preparations for a withdrawal.

"We will stay put in Sevastopol," Anatoly Serdyukov said in reply to a question from a reporter.

He also said Moscow would not increase the number of troops either in Abkhazia or South Ossetia, which Russia recognized as independent last August after a five-day war with Georgia over the latter.

Asked whether Russia was planning to increase its military presence in the two former Georgian republics, Serdyukov said, "No. Why? It is sufficient."

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who made a one-day visit to Abkhazia on Wednesday, said earlier in the week that Russia would allocate 15-16 billion rubles (over $465 million) in 2010 to strengthen Abkhazian borders, frontier troops and bases.

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