The commander of the Russian air force wants them, while his Ukrainian counterpart and the Ukrainian defense minister have no use for them and want to sell them, but the two countries seem no closer today to working out a deal on the transfer of the 44 Soviet strategic bombers located in Ukraine than they were several years ago. These planes include the bulk of the supersonic Tu-160 ÒBlackjackÓ bombers that were in the Soviet inventory. On March 1, Russian air force chief Gen. Pyotr Deinekin said that he had Òno doubt that Ukraine has been deliberately avoiding any decisionsÓ to transfer the planes.
In fact, the foot-dragging on the deal might well be in Moscow. In January 1995 the two countries agreed in principal on the deal and their two defense ministers confirmed the sale again in March 1996. Last month Ukrainian defense minister Oleksandr Kuzmuk said that he had once again brought up the transfer when he visited Moscow last November, and was told the Russians were still interested. Also in February Ukrainian air force chief Gen. Volodymyr Antonets confirmed that the bombers were rarely being flown by Ukraine — usually only on post-maintenance check flights. But a Òsenior Russian Defense Ministry officialÓ told Interfax on March 1 that Russia was thinking of abandoning the deal. It had plenty of the Tu-95MS missile-carriers that were part of the Ukrainian holdings, he said, and thought that they were Òmore reliable and economicalÓ than the Tu-160s anyway. (Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie, February 8-14 & 15-21, Interfax, March 2)
Inter-Tajik Talks Suspended After Government Double-Cross.