Moscow mayor urges to keep Russia's presence in Crimea

10:11, July 23, 2010      

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Mayor of Russian capital, Yuri Luzhkov, said that Russia should keep the city of Sevastopol as its naval base, Interfax news agency reported on Thursday.

"We should abandon neither Sevastopol nor Crimea," the Moscow mayor said, adding that Russia must remain there permanently.

"Sevastopol was a Russian city. This is a Russian naval base that guarantees geo-strategic balance for southern Russia. If we leave Sevastopol, we lose southern Russia," Luzhkov told the reception in Moscow to celebrate Russian Day of Navy.

Black Sea port of Sevastopol has been a constant bone of contention between Russia and Ukraine ever since the breakout of the Soviet Union.

Located in Crimea peninsula within the Ukrainian borders, the predominantly Russian-speaking town is a biggest Russian naval base since the 18th century. In 1954, Sevastopol together with the Crimea was transformed from Russia to Ukraine by a personal decision of the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchov.

Russia and Ukraine signed an agreement in 1997 that the Russian fleet may use Sevastopol as its base until 2017. In April 2010, the term was extended to 2047.

Moscow's mayor is the most vocal adherent of Russia keeping its toe at this peninsula's southern tip. His numerous fierce statements once led to his announcement a non-grata person by Kiev.

In May, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev cautiously sided with Luzhkov saying that Sevastopol "actually is not an alien town for us."

Moscow city government regularly assists Sevastopol's city authorities in developing local social infrastructures like building schools and housing.

Source: Xinhua


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