Russia offers NATO its Ulyanovsk airport
Russia has suggested to NATO it could use its own airport near Ulyanovsk if Manas transit shipment centre is closed, Voice of America reported.
'The Russian government plans to use the airport near Ulyanovsk as a transit point for NATO coalition troops in Afghanistan', the statement said. 'Moscow allowed NATO to supply coalition forces in Afghanistan through Russia by railway for three years. One of Russia's airports in Ulyanovsk may be also be used to deliver military cargo'.
According to the plan, military aircraft will fly out of Kabul, then over Central Asia to land 3000 kilometres away in Ulyanovsk.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told the Russian Duma members that the use of the airport by the NATO military is in Russia's interest, as this will facilitate the orderly withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan by December 2014 as was planned.
The agency stressed that the Russian leadership's decision was announced the day after the Kyrgyz authorities told U.S. Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta, who on a visit to this country, that they did not intend to prolong the lease term of the U.S. Air Force base Manas which expires in July 2014.
Expert on security issues in Central Asia Joshua Kucera, working in Washington, thinks that this statement of the Kyrgyz leadership can simply mean that it is time to begin lease negotiations with the new president Almazbek Atambayev, Voice of America said.
Kucera said that Ulyanovsk will be a fall-back option if Manas is closed and on the other hand, Manas is a fall back option in case of overlapping the channels passing through the territory of Pakistan.