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21 Oct, 2020 16:18

Top Russian admiral slams Zelensky's plans to build two Ukrainian Black Sea Naval bases as 'no threat': 'even NATO won't use them'

Top Russian admiral slams Zelensky's plans to build two Ukrainian Black Sea Naval bases as 'no threat': 'even NATO won't use them'

The former commander of Russia's Black Sea Fleet has accused Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky of “politicking" and showboating after Kiev announced it will build two naval bases on the strategically vital body of water.

Speaking to Moscow-based news agency NSN on Tuesday, Admiral Igor Kasatonov explained that the Ukrainian bases would be left unused, even by NATO, and therefore pose no threat to Russia.

“This is politicking,” Kasatonov claimed. “In strategic terms, they will not matter. And in operational terms too.”

In the 1990s, Kasatonov was well regarded in the Russian Navy, eventually reaching the post of first deputy commander-in-chief. Coming from a family of seamen, his father, Admiral Vladimir Kasatonov, was awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union, and has a frigate named after him.

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The admiral was responding to an announcement by Zelensky, who told the Ukrainian Parliament that the country will start to build “two naval bases to protect the Black Sea region,” and revealed plans for military ships, such as the Hetman Sahaydachniy, to continue being upgraded.

According to the Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, Ukraine's desire to build two naval bases in the Black Sea may negatively affect stability in the region, and could be “potentially dangerous.”

The Black Sea is a highly contested territory, bordered by Russia, Ukraine, and Georgia, as well as NATO members Turkey, Romania, and Bulgaria. For Russia, the Black Sea has tremendous strategic importance, as it enables ships to enter the Mediterranean and toward the Atlantic Ocean from year-round warm-weather ports.

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Earlier this month, Kiev agreed on a deal with London for 8 Barzan-class fast attack missile boats, worth £1.25 billion ($1.6 billion). The agreement between the two countries is due to provide a much-needed boost for the Ukrainian Navy, which lost a significant part of its capability following Crimea's reabsorption into Russia. With the loss of the Crimean port of Sevastopol, Kiev was stripped of most of its warships and naval infrastructure, as well as a large number of personnel, many of whom defected to Russia.

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