MOSCOW, July 9 (RIA Novosti)
NATO will start using a Russian air base in the Volga region city of Ulyanovsk on August 1 to transport supplies to and from Afghanistan, Kommersant daily reported on Monday, citing a senior official.
Preparations will be complete by then for transit to "go on continuously," Russia's acting NATO envoy Nikolai Korchunov was quoted as saying.
There were "no plans" to use "foreign military personnel" at the facility, Korchunov said.
"No explosive or dangerous cargo will be transported," he added.
The Russian government gave the go-ahead for the facility last month.
Moscow announced plans to create a NATO transit hub in Ulyanovsk in March. The decision sparked protests in the city, the birthplace of Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin.
Veteran Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov has called the deal "humiliating" for Russia.
But both NATO and Russian officials have sought to allay fears the hub would turn out to be a fully-fledged base.
"We have no intention of establishing a base in Russia," NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in a video link-up with RIA Novosti in March. "This is a pragmatic arrangement which allows us to transport non-lethal weapons and troops to benefit our operation in Afghanistan."
"There never has been and never will be a NATO military base in Ulyanovsk," Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement in April, adding the hub would see the "transit of exclusively non-lethal cargoes."
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