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Wednesday, 01 January 1997, page A3

Ukraine Won't Finish Russian Flattop

By Bill Gertz

A Ukrainian shipyard is scrapping construction of Russia's newest aircraft carrier, severely limiting Moscow's ability to deploy new ships capable of flying high-performance jets, according to a CIA report.

Russia's failure to provide funds to complete the Varyag, which was about 75 percent finished, leaves Russia's surface navy with a single aircraft carrier, the Kuznetsov, and is a further sign of the decline of the once-mighty Soviet surface navy.

"The destruction of the ... Varyag will virtually eliminate Russia's chances of acquiring new carriers capable of operating high-performance fixed-wing aircraft for at least 10 years," the top-secret CIA report said.

... ... ...

The CIA report said that unless Moscow regains control of the Ukrainian shipyard on the Black Sea, where the carrier was being built, or renovates Russian ship-building yards, "Russia will be able to build only smaller carriers capable of handling Harrier-like aircraft and helicopters."

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The CIA report contained a satellite photograph showing SA-N-9 surface-to-air missile launchers on the deck of the Varyag and equipment, including a special radar, which had been removed to a nearby dock.

It also said covers from some parts of the ship had been removed, exposing interior parts of the ship to corrosion. The ship was reported sodl to a European company and is expected to be towed to a scrap yard in India, the CIA said.

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