MOSCOW, June 14 (UPI) -- The anchoring of Russia's Black Sea Fleet in the port city of Sevastopol is no threat to Ukraine's sovereignty, Russia's deputy prime minister said Saturday.
Speaking at a celebration to mark the city's 225th anniversary, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said the fleet "defends not only the interests of Russia, but those of Ukraine and its southern borders," RIA Novosti reported.
"The presence of the Black Sea Fleet does not cause any substantial damage to Ukraine's independence," Ivanov said.
Ukraine has pushed for a 2017 deadline for Russia's lease of naval facilities in the Crimea, an autonomous region within Ukraine.
Since the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union, the Crimea has unsuccessfully sought independence from Ukraine.