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Russia denies naval bases report

Russian warship off Havana, Cuba
The Russian navy has been travelling widely, including to Havana in Cuba

The Russian navy has denied a report that it plans to establish naval bases in Libya, Syria and Yemen.

An unnamed official from the navy was quoted by the Russian state news agency Itar-Tass saying bases would be set up "within a few years".

A senior naval official, quoted by another agency, Interfax, said the report did "not correspond to reality".

However, a separate official confirmed that the Russian navy was on the lookout for overseas bases.

"It is premature to name any countries as possible locations for naval bases," said the official from the office of the military's chief of staff.

But he said "at the same time we support the position of the navy on the necessity of the creation of bases abroad".

Russia has poured more money into its military in recent years, after years of post-communist decline.

Expanding presence

Russian media reported that Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi offered Russia a naval base in Benghazi when he visited Moscow last November.

And analysts have said that the Syrian port of Tartus, used by the Soviet navy in the Cold War, could be revived as a Russian base, the Reuters news agency reported.

Russia has only one naval base operating in a foreign country - in Sevastopol in Ukraine. But Ukraine's president has made clear he would like that closed when Russia's lease is up in 2017.

The Russian navy has been expanding its presence on the world stage.

It held joint exercises with the Venezuelan navy last month, and visited Cuba.

It has also been taking part in the international effort to combat piracy in the waters off Somalia.

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