Russia denies plans for new navy bases abroad

Russian destroyer Admiral Vinogradov seen in the Chinese port of Qingdao on 23 April 2012, ahead of Chinese-Russian naval exercises (file picture) Russia has been seeking a greater international role for its navy.

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Russia's Defence Ministry has denied reports Moscow its planning to set up its first new overseas navy bases since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

Earlier, a news agency quoted Russia's navy chief as saying that Cuba, Vietnam and the Seychelles were being considered as possible sites.

But the ministry said that Vice Adm Viktor Chirkov had never made the alleged remarks.

A lack of money after 1991 led to the closure of most Russian bases abroad.

It closed a base in Vietnam in 2002, and currently has bases only in Ukraine and Syria. President Vladimir Putin has pledged to restore Russia's military might.

In recent years, Moscow has expanded its navy's operations overseas, including by taking part in international anti-piracy operations near Somalia.

"It's true that we are continuing work on providing the navy with bases outside the Russian Federation," the RIA-Novosti news agency quoted Vice Adm Chirkov as saying in an interview.

According to the agency, he added that Moscow was "working out the issue of creating sites for material and technical support on the territory of Cuba, the Seychelles and Vietnam".

'Fantasy'

However, the defence ministry later insisted Vice Adm Chirkov had said no such thing, and that the subject had not been broached during the interview.

"Issues concerning international relations are not part of the responsibilities of the commander-in-chief of the navy," the ministry said in a statement posted on its website.

It added that the reported remarks were a "fantasy of their author, who preferred to prioritise sensationalism above competency and professional ethics".

In 2002, during Mr Putin's first term as president, Russia pulled out of the Cam Ranh base in Vietnam, opened in its then-communist ally at the height of the Cold War in 1979.

The closure came after the the original 25-year lease expired and Vietnam demanded a higher rent, but analysts say a desire to improve relations with the United States also played a role.

The country's remaining overseas bases are in Sevastopol, in Ukraine, where Russia's Black Sea Fleet is housed, as well as a small logistical support base in the Syrian port of Tartus.

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