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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Moscow confirms talks on foreign naval bases

RIA Novosti

16/01/2009 16:09 MOSCOW, January 16 (RIA Novosti) - Russia believes it is too early to name any countries where its Navy would like to deploy "basing points," the deputy chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces said on Friday.

Russian media previously reported that Russia was looking at possible naval facilities in Yemen, Syria and Libya, among other countries.

"At this stage it is too early to talk about the geographic location of the basing points. Negotiations are under way with the governments of the countries in question. Any premature disclosure could have a negative impact on the course of these negotiations," Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn said.

He said earlier in January that the General Staff had backed the Navy command's proposal to develop naval infrastructure outside Russia.

Russian military officials are also on record as saying Moscow could build up its presence in the Mediterranean to make up for the loss of its naval base in Ukraine's port of Sevastopol.

Russia is set to leave the Sevastopol base when the current lease agreement expires in 2017.

The base has been a source of friction between Russia and Ukraine in recent years, as Ukraine's pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko has sought NATO and EU membership for the country and Russia has accused Kiev of "unfriendly" policies over its Black Sea Fleet base.

Yushchenko has called for the Russian navy's early pullout, tougher deployment requirements and higher fees, demands that have not been backed by his former coalition ally, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

Russia-Ukraine tensions heightened after several Black Sea Fleet warships dropped anchor off the Georgian coast during and after the armed conflict with Tbilisi over breakaway South Ossetia last month.

Russia's naval base in the Crimea currently has 50 warships and patrol boats, along with around 80 aircraft, and employs coastal defense troops.

The Soviet-era Navy maintenance site in Syria named Tartus is the only Russian foothold in the Mediterranean.

Russian media reports earlier said the facility could be turned into a base. About 10 Russian warships and three floating piers are reported to be currently deployed there, and Russia is expanding the port and building a pier in nearby El-Latakia.

Russia also plans to equip its military bases in Georgia's breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia by late 2009.

The chief of the Russian General Staff, General of the Army Nikolai Makarov, said in November that the Russian military bases in Abkhazia and South Ossetia will be fully staffed with 3,700 personnel each by the end of 2009.

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