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Russia to Control NATO Ulyanovsk Transit Base - Lavrov

RIA Novosti

12:15 05/04/2012 MOSCOW, April 5 (RIA Novosti) - The projected Ulyanovsk transit base for NATO supplies to and from Afghanistan will remain under Russian customs control and will have no NATO civil or military personnel, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday.

The U.S. wants to set up a transit supply base for NATO in order to facilitate the withdrawal of NATO forces from the international ISAF contingent in Afghanistan in 2013-14.

"It will take place under full customs control of the Russian Federation," Lavrov said. "No military or civil personnel from NATO will be there, only Russian customs and Russian companies working in it," he said at a press conference during his visit to Kyrgyzstan.

Russian forces may also check all freight transiting through the country for drugs, as Russia has been hit hard by heroin production in Central Asia, Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko said.

President Medvedev has called Afghan drugs a threat to Russia's security.

"Russia pays especial attention to security measures, so we have an agreement with NATO that all transit goods travelling through our territory may be subject to additional checks, including for drugs," Grushko told RIA Novosti.

There are about five million drugs users in Russia, the country's drugs control chief Viktor Ivanov said in Decemeber.

Russia allows NATO to transport non-military supplies for its operation in Afghanistan by rail and by air.

Grushko said Russia had no current plans to allow the United States and other NATO member states to use a Russian air base in the Volga city of Ulyanovsk as a hub for transits to and from Afghanistan.

"There will be no hub in Ulyanovsk. We are talking about temporary depots needed for the storage and subsequent loading of aircraft with non-lethal goods for shipment to the International Security Assistance Force," Grushko said, adding that the shipments were "strictly commercial."

Last month, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the bloc had "no intention of establishing a base in Russia."

"This is a pragmatic arrangement which allows us to transport non-lethal supplies and troops to benefit our operation in Afghanistan," he said in a video link-up with RIA Novosti.

The decision provoked protests in Ulyanovsk, the birthplace of Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin.



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