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Russia could order aircraft carriers from Ukraine - MP-2

25.09.2008 Source: en.rian.ru

The Neustrashimy (Fearless) frigate from the Baltic Fleet left the main naval base in Russia's Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad on Wednesday on an unspecified long-range patrol mission, a Navy spokesman said.

"The Neustrashimy will carry out a number of missions at sea," Capt. 1st Rank Igor Dygalo said, without giving further details.

He also did not comment on whether the warship will join a Russian task force heading to the Caribbean to participate in joint naval exercises with Venezuela.

A naval task force from Russia's Northern Fleet, comprising the nuclear-powered missile cruiser Pyotr Velikiy (Peter the Great), the large ASW ship Admiral Chabanenko, and support ships departed on September 8 on a tour of duty in the Atlantic Ocean, including joint naval drills with the Venezuelan navy in November.

The Neustrashimy is the only Project 1154 Yastreb class missile frigate in active service with the Russian Navy to have been built before the collapse of the Soviet Union. It is designed as a general purpose ASW ship to follow on from the Krivak class frigates and incorporates some 'stealth' technology.

The ship's armament includes SS-N-25 Switchblade anti-ship missiles, SA-N-9 Gauntlet SAM, a 100-mm gun, torpedoes and depth charges.

The frigate also carries a Ka-27 ASW helicopter.

Moscow may offer Ukraine contracts to build aircraft carriers for the Russian Navy, a senior Russian lawmaker told RIA Novosti on Wednesday.

He commented on Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov's statement on Tuesday that Russia could make several lucrative proposals to Ukraine that could convince Kiev to allow Russia's Black Sea Fleet to remain in Sevastopol after 2017, when the lease on the naval base in the Crimea expires.

"We can offer Ukraine extensive and lucrative opportunities in the sphere of shipbuilding. They have the Nikolaev shipyards that used to build aircraft carriers during Soviet times," said Vyacheslav Popov, a former commander of the Northern Fleet who now sits in the upper house of parliament.

"These shipyards are bankrupt and abandoned at present and with mutual consent we could help reactivate them," Popov said.

Russia currently lacks the capacity to build aircraft carriers and modernizing its existing shipyards would be an expensive and lengthy proposition.

Popov said though that this proposal "may become a sensitive issue" as Ukraine's pro-Western president, Viktor Yushchenko, is seeking NATO and EU membership for the country.

Yushchenko has called for the Russian navy's early withdrawal from the Sevastopol base, as well as tougher deployment requirements and higher fees, demands that have not been backed by his former coalition ally, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

Russia-Ukraine tensions heightened after several Black Sea Fleet warships dropped anchor off the Georgian coast during and after last month's armed conflict with Tbilisi over breakaway South Ossetia.

Ukraine's Foreign Ministry said later Wednesday that Ukrainian and Russian delegations would meet in Kiev Thursday for a new round of discussions on the operation of the base in the context of the Georgia conflict.

"During the consultations Ukraine will set out its position on the Black Sea Fleet's action during crisis situations," the ministry said.

Russia's naval base in the Crimea currently has 50 warships and patrol boats, along with around 80 aircraft, and employs coastal defense troops.

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