Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 38

Ukraine has agreed conditionally to allow Russia to modernize the tactical aviation regiment attached to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in the Crimea. The regiment, based at Hvardiyske (Russian: Gvardeiskoe) outside Simferopol, consists of twenty-two SU-17M strike aircraft. This model is outdated and the planes in question are said to be in considerable disrepair, so that Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in the Crimea is seen as virtually lacking a land-based tactical air cover. After more than two years of negotiations, Ukraine has consented to the replacement of those planes by an equal number of SU-24M aircraft–a more modern though hardly state-of-the-art type. Eleven of those planes have recently arrived from Russia and eleven more are due.

Ukraine has set the following preconditions to the transfer of the aircraft: a mandatory ban on their carrying nuclear ammunition; removal of the special supports by which the nuclear ammunition can be suspended from the SU24M planes; evacuation of the old airplanes, so as to preclude a net numerical increase of the force; and Ukrainian-Russian agreement on rules regarding Russian aviation’s movements in Ukrainian airspace, force replacements in the future, and the use of Crimea-based Russian units “in crises.”

Ukraine has, after considerable insistence, obtained the right to inspect the SU-24M planes at their base in Anapa, Krasnodar Krai, Russia, prior to the planes’ transfer. The inspection aims primarily to verify that the supports for nuclear ammunition have been removed in a manner that precludes their reattachment later on. The Ukrainians carried out that inspection in Anapa to their satisfaction on the first batch of the planes. The transfer of the second batch is being delayed, however, pending final Russian agreement on the other conditions set by Ukraine (UNIAN, DINAU, January 4, 13, 19, February 3, 10, 20).

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