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    Russia aims to increase number of submarines in Black Sea Fleet -1

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    Russia would like to increase the number of submarines in its Black Sea Fleet, but has so far been held back by Ukraine, Russian Navy Commander Admiral Vladimir Masorin said.

    (Recasts para 2, adds details, background in paras 3-11)

    SEVASTOPOL, August 2 (RIA Novosti) - Russia would like to increase the number of submarines in its Black Sea Fleet, but has so far been held back by Ukraine, Russian Navy Commander Admiral Vladimir Masorin said.

    "In the future Russia's Black Sea Fleet [based in Ukraine's Crimea] should have a brigade consisting of 12-15 diesel submarines," Masorin said. The fleet currently has two diesel subs.

    "We have been asking Ukraine to transfer a sub from the Northern Fleet to the Black Sea Fleet, but we have yet to resolve the issue," he said.

    Masorin said in July that the construction of a new base for the Black Sea Fleet at the Russian port of Novorossiisk would be completed by 2012.

    President Vladimir Putin signed a decree in 2003 setting up the alternative naval base for the Black Sea Fleet in Novorossiisk, after Ukraine demanded the base in Sevastopol, Crimea, be withdrawn by 2017.

    The commander said that in Soviet times, there were about 60 diesel subs in the Black Sea Fleet. "There is no longer any need for such a number," he said.

    Masorin said the construction of a third diesel sub named Sevastopol, from the Lada family, had recently been started. He also said the Black Sea Fleet would receive two new ships this year - The Admiral Zakharyin minesweeper and a Serna air-cavity landing craft.

    Kiev has been pushing for the withdrawal of Russia's naval base in Sevastopol by 2017, in compliance with a previous bilateral agreement.

    Russia and Ukraine signed an agreement in 1997 stipulating that the Black Sea Fleet's main base in Sevastopol be leased to Russia for 20 years, with the possibility of extending the term.

    The annual rent of about $100 million is deducted from Ukraine's debt for Russian energy supplies. In addition to the main base, the Black Sea Fleet maintains two airfields and a ship re-supply facility on the Crimean Peninsula.

    Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko said in July the current rent could be increased in the future.

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