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29 Jun, 2012 12:09

Russia broadens transit opportunities for NATO

Russia has allowed NATO to use not only ground, but also aerial routes for the transit of weapons and military hardware to and from Afghanistan.

A respective decree, signed by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, was published on Friday. The document amends the 2008 resolution, "On ground transit through the territory of the Russian Federation of weapons, military hardware and military property addressed to the International Security Assistance Force in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and in the opposite direction." Now, in addition to ground transit, NATO is allowed to use ‘combined transit’ routes – including railway, air and automobile. Russia has provided its territory for the alliance’s Afghanistan-bound cargoes since 2009. The link is vital as Pakistan blocked NATO supplies from crossing its territory after an airstrike accidentally killed 24 Pakistani soldiers last year.Moscow has been considering allowing NATO to use Ulyanovsk Air Base for the transit of non-lethal cargos to and from Afghanistan. The planned agreement stirred a wave of criticism and protests in Russia, however, with many being strongly opposed to what they consider a “NATO base” on Russian soil. However, high-ranking Moscow officials insist that no NATO military base or the presence of the alliance’s civil and military personnel is intended, only civilian logistics facilities.