Russia: Vladimir Putin orders nuclear submarines to boost navy forces - but Kremlin vows not to interfere in Afghanistan crisis

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Vladimir Putin has ramped up efforts to modernise the Russian navy by launching the construction of new nuclear submarines.

Mr Putin issued orders for two nuclear subs armed with intercontinental ballistic missiles, together with other warships, on Monday in a bid to arm the country with "state-of-the-art weapons" and build a "powerful and well-balanced navy".

Speaking in a video call, the president also approved two diesel-powered submarines and two corvettes at shipyards in Severodvinsk, St Petersburg and Komsomolsk-on-Amur.

Mr Putin said: "We will continue to boost the potential of the Russian navy, develop its bases and infrastructure, arm it with state-of-the-art weapons.

"A strong and sovereign Russia needs a powerful and well-balanced navy."

The announcement comes amid growing tensions with the West - as relations plunged to post-Cold War lows following the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

But the Kremlin insisted it will not interfere in the crisis in Afghanistan following the Taliban's takeover.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday how leaders of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (a military alliance of post-Soviet states) met for talks on the implications of "another civil war in Afghanistan".

Following the discussion among the Russian-led military alliance - comprised of seven former Soviet states including Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan - Mr Peskov added: "Of course, no one is going to intervene in these events."

Russia has established a major presence in the Mediterranean Sea, including a base at Tartus port in Syria.

The base, which has now been expanded, is the only Russian facility outside the former Soviet Union.

Mr Putin added in his address: "We will continue to show the Russian flag in strategically important ocean areas."

"Many of our weapons have the capabilities that have no analogues in the world, and some will remain unrivalled for a long time to come," Mr Putin said.

It comes as president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, vowed on Monday to do everything he can to bring back the Crimean peninsula after it was annexed.

Speaking at the Crimean Platform summit, Mr Zelenskyy urged international allies to back his bid to reclaim Crimea.

Addressing an audience with representatives from all 30 NATO member states, the Ukrainian premier promised to "do everything possible to return Crimea, so that Crimea, together with Ukraine, becomes part of Europe."

"For this we will use all possible political, legal and first and foremost diplomatic means," Mr Zelenskyy said, warning how capital Kiev needs "effective support at the international level."

He slammed Russia for using Crimea as a "foothold to boost its influence on the Black Sea region".

But Kremilin spokesman, Mr Peskov, dismissed the summit as an "anti-Russian event."

Ukraine called for the event to build pressure on Russia over the annexation of Crimea - which many nations including Britain and the US have refused to recognise and have branded illegal.

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