Ukraine sell Blackjacks

RUSSIA AND UKRAINE have reached preliminary agreement on the sale of some Ukrainian Tupolev Tu-160 Blackjack bombers to Moscow. The agreement was reached during a two-day visit to Kiev by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets, and was subsequently endorsed by the Ukrainian National Security Council and Defence Minister Valery Shmarov.

Air Force Commander Volodymyr Antonets said Ukraine was no longer capable of supporting the Tu-160, and would rely in future on its remaining 24 Tu-95 Bears. It has not been announced how many of the 18 Tu-160s based at Priluki, 75 miles (120km) north of Kiev, are to be sold, or for how much. Earlier talks foundered when there was disagreement over the price.

The new agreement comes as Russia and Ukraine continue to move closer to full defence co-operation. Earlier this month the long-awaited joint air defence system was finalised, a move which PVO Commander General Mikhailo Lopatyn says was long overdue.

«Already in the first years of independence our anti-aircraft system ran into serious problems, which are almost impossible to resolve given the economic situation and in isolation from other CIS countries» said Lopatyn on February 20. He added that 40% of Ukraine’s fighter aircraft were grounded due to shortages of fuel and spares. Keir Giles

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