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NOVOROSSIYSK, Russia - Russia will increase its Black Sea fleet with more than 80 new warships by 2020 and will complete a second naval base for the fleet near the city of Novorossiysk by 2016, its commander said on Tuesday. In comments made to President Vladimir Putin as he visited the port city, Vice Admiral Alexander Vitko said a second Black Sea base was needed in addition to the main base on the Crimea peninsula annexed from Ukraine because of NATO expansion. "The Black Sea Fleet will have 206 ships and vessels by 2020," Vitko told Putin. "NATO ships are constantly present in the Black Sea."
NATO has regularly conducted naval exercises in the Black Sea, especially since Russia annexed Crimea, populated mainly by ethnic Russians, in March partly from fear that Ukraine's new pro-Western authorities might try to join the Atlantic alliance. Three NATO members have a Black Sea coastline - Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey. Russia plans to spend 21 trillion rubles ($545 billion) by the end of the decade on refurbishing its armed forces.