Russian naval presence in Crimea fuels tension

Sevastopol hosts one of Russia`s largest naval fleets.

Sevastopol hosts one of Russia`s largest naval fleets.

ANKARA - Political turmoil in Ukraine spread to its autonomous Crimea region Thursday.

The Russian interest in the peninsula stems not only from the overwhelming Russian presence within the population, but from the existence of a crucial naval base on the Black Sea.

One of Russia`s largest naval base - the Black Sea Fleet - is located in the Crimean port city Sevastopol.

The Black Sea Fleet comprises around 300 vessels and up to 30,000 military personnel, according to the German Security and International Relations Institute.

An additional 15 warships and submarines will join the forces by 2020, according to Russian media sources.

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Russian military presence in Crimea

Russia has maintained a military presence in Crimea since 1783 when Imperial Russia captured the peninsula from the Crimean Khanate. It was handed over to the Ukrainian SSR in 1954 by Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev.

Russia`s original lease on the Crimea extended through 2017. It was extended in 2010 for 25 years after the Kremlin agreed to a 30% discount on the price of Russian gas.

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