Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 102

A Russian newspaper on May 14 reported that China had purchased the unfinished ex-Soviet aircraft carrier "Varyag" for $2.4 billion as part of Beijing’s effort to create a carrier-based striking force to use either against Taiwan or in the South China Sea. (Segodnya, May 14) The Varyag was to have been the sister ship of the Admiral Kuznetsov, presently Russia’s only true aircraft carrier. Work began on the Varyag — then named the "Riga" — at the Black Sea Shipyard in Mikolayiv, Ukraine, in 1985, and the vessel was launched in December 1988. It was roughly 70 percent completed when work stopped upon the break-up of the Soviet Union.

The Russian navy was the logical customer to receive the ship after paying for the remaining work, but 3 years of negotiations between Russia and Ukraine ended in failure. The Ukrainian government finally gave the shipyard permission to find a buyer for the ship and over the years several deals were rumored — usually involving a European middleman to transfer the ship to India where it would be broken up for scrap. The latest version of this story appeared in January of this year, carried by both American and Russian sources. (Washington Times, January 1; RIA, January 3)

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