A brief news release on January 13 announced that the missile cruiser Marshal Ustinov had finished its sea trials in the Baltic Sea and was to depart yesterday for its home base in the Northern Fleet. (RIA Novosti, January 13) The Navy brass had reason to celebrate the event, as the service has been losing its major surface combatants at an alarming rate. The Marshal Ustinov was the second of four Slava-class cruisers built and was commissioned in 1986. A major overhaul of the ship, which at one time was the flagship of the Northern Fleet, began in St. Petersburg in 1994. The Navy has often not been able to find the money to complete such expensive repairs, however, sounding the death knell for the ships in question. Pessimists predicted that the Marshal Ustinov would face the same fate, but money for the repairs trickled in over the years and she is apparently once again ready for service.
Touted as the premier fleet in the Navy, the Northern Fleet has had more than its share of problems. One of its two aircraft carriers, the Admiral Gorshkov, has long been out of service and will likely end up as scrap unless India agrees to buy it. Of the three nuclear-powered Kirov-class cruisers in the fleet, the Peter the Great sits idly in port as the Navy tries to find the money to finish its acceptance tests, while the Admiral Ushakov has been laid up at Severomorsk since 1990 as the result of a propulsion accident. Last month, the fleet’s chief of staff, Vice Admiral Vyacheslav Popov, admitted that the fleet was loosing some of its capabilities as older ships were decommissioned and others taken out of service because money could not be found to complete their repairs. (Na strazhe zapolyarya, December 6, 1997)
Ukraine Ratifies "Historic" Treaty with Russia.