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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.

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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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Updated Wednesday, January 01, 1997