Russia’s Foreign Ministry has approached Latvia about extending the Russian lease to the Skrunda antimissile early warning radar in Latvia, according to Colonel-General Vladimir Yakovlev, commander of Russia’s strategic missile forces. Yakovlev implied that the matter is one of some urgency as the lease is due to expire on August 31. The general stated that a similar radar station, being built by Russia near Baranavichy/Baranovichi in Belarus in order to replace Skrunda, is "far from completion" because of Moscow’s inability to finance the construction on schedule. Yakovlev spoke yesterday on his return from an inspection visit to Belarus. (Russian agencies, February 19)
Yakovlev had aired the demand to Latvia publicly a few days ago from a military point of view, without seeming to implicate the Foreign Ministry. (See Monitor, February 13) In Minsk yesterday, the Belarusan Armed Forces Chief-of-Staff, Lieutenant-General Mikhail Kozlov, stated that the Russian lease to the site near Baranavichy runs for twenty-five years. Belarus does not charge Russia any rent and Russia reciprocates the favor by allowing Belarusan air defense forces to exercise gratis at ranges in Russia, Kozlov pointed out. (Russian agencies, February 19) Russia and Belarus in fact operate an integrated air defense system.
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