Russia's Black Sea Fleet to receive new frigates, subs by 2015.
Russia's Black Sea Fleet based in Ukraine's Crimea will receive new frigate-type vessels and diesel-powered submarines by 2015, a top naval officer said Friday.
The unnamed admiral gave his reaction to RIA Novosti on some media reports that had earlier said at least two corvettes and three subs would join the Black Sea Fleet within the next five years.
"In line with the approved shipbuilding program and armaments program until 2015, the Black Sea Fleet is to receive two frigates and three diesel submarines," the admiral said, stressing that he indeed meant frigates, which are capable of traveling much longer distances than corvettes.
"We need to realize that the Black Sea Fleet's responsibility zone is the entire Mediterranean and not only the Black Sea. Besides, Russia's Navy... faces the task of fighting piracy off the Horn of Africa," he said, adding that only frigates are capable of fulfilling this task.
The Russian Navy has maintained a permanent presence off the Horn of Africa, with warships operating on a rotation basis. Russia joined international anti-piracy efforts off the Somali coast in October 2008. Pirates based in Somalia, which has been without an effective government since 1991, hijacked more than 35 vessels in 2009, and have already seized two this year.
The Black Sea Fleet uses a range of naval facilities in the Crimea, including a base in Sevastopol, as part of a 1997 lease agreement valid until 2017. Outgoing Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has led calls for Russia to pack up and pull out of Ukraine when the lease expires, although Russia hopes to extend it.
Relations between Moscow and Kiev have deteriorated markedly during Yushchenko's presidency. Russian leaders have said they hope to establish constructive cooperation with the new Ukrainian president, ruling out any rapprochement with Yushchenko.