Russia denies Black Sea Fleet Poised for 'Emergency Action'

February 5, 2009, Moscow -- The Russian Navy dismissed on Thursday media reports claiming that the Russian Black Sea Fleet, based in Ukraine, had been put on alert and was preparing to urgently go to sea.

"I've been authorized to categorically deny this information as being inconsistent with reality and providing fertile soil for rumors and speculation. It's business as usual, and the Black Sea Fleet is performing its routine duties," said Navy spokesman Capt. 1st Rank Igor Dygalo.

He suggested such reports could have been put out to deliberately fan tensions in the region.

Russia's Black Sea Fleet currently 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.

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.

Russian media previously reported that Moscow was also looking at possible naval facilities in Yemen, Syria and Libya, among other countries. 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 Sevastopol. (RIA novosti)

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