Russia will never give up its naval base in Ukraine's port of Sevastopol on the Crimean peninsula, ex-commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet Adm. Igor Kasatonov said.
Russia's Black Sea Fleet is stationed in Crimea under a lease agreement with Ukraine. On April 21, 2010, Moscow and Kiev signed a deal extending the lease on the fleet's base in Sevastopol for 25 years after the current lease expires in 2017.
"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 in a recent interview with the Kiev-based Expert magazine.
"Russia will never give up either Sevastopol or the Kuril Islands," the admiral said, adding that the naval base in Sevastopol played the utmost strategic role in the protection of Russia's southwestern border.
Kasatonov said that the Black Sea Fleet must be equipped with advanced weaponry as soon as possible to counter effectively the existing and emerging global threats.
At present, the Black Sea Fleet has about 40 operational vessels, including a single diesel-electric submarine, but most of them are slated for decommissioning.
Russian Navy Commander Admiral Vladimir Vysotsky said last year that the fleet would be reinforced with 15 new combat ships and diesel-electric submarines by 2020, and could become a formidable force by 2035.
MOSCOW, April 23 (RIA Novosti)