RUSSIA, UKRAINE HAVE OPEN PROBLEMS YET

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The Russian defense minister visited Ukraine this week. At first sight, the visit was rather productive. The Russian and Ukrainian defense ministers signed an agreement on scrapping and return of aircrafts sent to Russian and Ukrainian repair plants. In addition, they signed a contract according to which Ukrainian specialists using the S-300 anti-aircraft complexes will study at Russian military high schools. In the meantime, some problems have remained.

For instance, the destiny of the An-70 project is uncertain. As is known, Russia and Ukraine had to test in October 2002. After that the testing was postponed. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov stated in Kiev that testing of the An-70 military-transport plane will be resumed after eliminating all defects in its construction.

He stated at a press conference in Kiev: “Russia has some questions regarding some parts of the aircraft, particularly the engine. As far as I know, Ukraine is now preparing answers, and testing will resume after we receive them.” When asked if Russia is interested in purchasing the An-70 aircraft, Ivanov noted: “Russia is interested in purchasing and adding to arsenals a new generation military-transport aircraft, which meets international requirements.”

In the meantime, the media circulated a statement by a representative of the Russian General Staff according to which Russian experts consider the An-70 project as having no prospects. However, a decision to stop the project has not been made yet.

A high-ranking representative of the General Staff stated on July 1: “The An-70 project was launched in the late 1970s – designers intended to create a medium-lift military-transport plane capable of landing on a short runway. Twenty years has passed, and the An-70 has turned into a heavy transport plane, which requires a long runway.”

The agency’s interlocutor stated that thus far the An-70 aircraft has taken off only once or twice. Each time the aircraft’s engines’ malfunctioned. In addition, the An-70 does not meet noise requirements.

The representative of the General Staff stated: “This means that we will not be able to fly to Europe on this aircraft.” According to him, “the price for the An-70 aircraft is too high for the Defense Ministry”. He noted that “one An-70 crashed, another fell in Omsk”. The source said: “Russia has invested around $100 million in this project over ten years but the aircraft has not been created yet. On the other hand, Russia has an upgraded version of the Il-76 aircraft – the Il-76MF.” The source noted that this aircraft has successfully passed the first phase of tests. In addition, it’s cheaper than the An-70 by almost 50%. He also noted that the Russian aircraft’s engines meet international requirements. The agency’s interlocutor stated that “Russia will not resume financing of the An-70 project until all defects are eliminated”. In principle, this does not conflict with Ivanov’s statement in Kiev.

Russia and Ukrainian have not yet solved differences over the Black Sea Fleet. Kiev and Moscow have been disputing the necessity of passing over navigation stations of the Russian Black Sea Fleet to the Ukrainian Armed Forces for over a half a year. Ukrainian Defense Minister Yevgeny Marchuk said after his meeting with Igor Ivanov that “these problems are not insoluble”. According to him, a Russian-Ukrainian intergovernmental sub-commission in charge of solving these problems is now working in Sevastopol. The minister noted that the Ukrainian’ part of the sub-commission is headed by Vasily Rogovoi, aide to the Ukrainian president. Ilya Klebanov, Minister for Industry, Science and Technologies represents Russia.

Victor Rogovoi told journalists that the problem of the presence of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol must have a pragmatic solution because such issues are vitally important for the socio-economic development of the city.

Mr. Rogovoi said: “The parties have been preparing for this meeting very actively, and will try to implement Russian-Ukrainian agreements concerning the Black Sea Fleet on the basis of friendship.” According to Rogovoi, stock-taking is one of the most topical problems.

The Ukrainian representative stated: “The problem of stock-taking is much broader because we have to register objects and land plots used by the Black Sea Fleet. Ukraine proceeds from the necessity of finding mutual understanding in solving this problem.”

In the meantime, Russia does not intend to revise agreements on the partition of the Black Sea Fleet. It should be noted that Ukraine banned Russian units from organizing military exercise at sea after the crash of the Tu-154 jetliner over the Black Sea. This decision has become a problem for the Russian military.

In other words, Sergei Ivanov’s visit to Kiev has shown that Russia and Ukraine have military and military-technical problems. Their solution would surely contribute to the Russian-Ukrainian integration in the future.

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