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20 Sep, 2007 04:42

Winds of change for Russia's Black Sea Fleet?

The Black Sea Fleet – once a symbol of power but since 1991 a source of discord between Russia and Ukraine – was divided between the two countries after the collapse of the Soviet Union. And though large-scale joint military exercise

Only a few countries are capable of an amphibious assault, and Russia is one of them. Therefore, one of the most impressive parts of the Black Sea Fleet’s training is a seaborne assault. This includes gunfire, air assault and a marines' attack.

Yet the Black Sea Fleet may be seeing its last decade in the Crimea.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and partition of the Navy, relations between Russia and Ukraine have deteriorated.

Marines seem uncomfortable talking on the subject, and almost any comment on the future of the Crimean fleet stirs up a verbal fight between the countries’ Foreign Ministries.

When the lease expires in ten years, Kiev wants the Russian Navy out. But Russia, as a founder of the Black Sea Fleet in the 18th century, wants to stay.

A commander says it is a political problem.

“The authorities of Novorossiysk understand how serious the situation is. In the future, their part of the Fleet may become the most vital on the south frontiers of Russia,” commented Aleksandr Kletskov, Vice Admiral of the Black Sea Fleet.

Upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections in both countries may change the wind for the Black Sea Fleet, and for now they are training side by side – most of them hoping the status quo will be preserved.