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Black Sea Fleet to remain in Ukraine after 2017 - ex-commander


SEVASTOPOL/MOSCOW, May 13 (RIA Novosti) - Russia and Ukraine can reach an agreement on the Russian Black Sea Fleet retaining its main base in Crimea's Sevastopol even after 2017, the fleet's former commander said Wednesday.

The fleet uses a range of naval facilities in Ukraine's Crimea as part of a 1997 agreement, under which Ukraine agreed to lease the bases to Russia until 2017.

"Statements by some Ukrainian politicians on the need for the prompt withdrawal of the Black Sea Fleet from Sevastopol are nothing more than political bravado," Adm. Igor Kasatonov, who is also an advisor to the chief of the Russian General Staff, said.

"The Black Sea Fleet is a stronghold of stability and security for two states - both Russia and Ukraine," he said. Kasatonov commanded the fleet in 1991-1992.

On Wednesday the fleet celebrates the 226th anniversary since its establishment.

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

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