Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin on Tuesday called speculations about a possible NATO military base in the Russian Volga city of Ulyanovsk a “provocation.”
In early February, Russian daily Kommersant quoted Defense Ministry sources as saying that Moscow was in talks with NATO on a new transit agreement under which non-lethal cargoes from Afghanistan would be flown to Ulyanovsk, and then transferred to Europe by train.
The news was taken by Ulyanovsk residents as Russia’s permission for opening a NATO military base in their city and resulted in mass protests. On Sunday, Communists in Ulyanovsk went on a hunger strike for an indefinite period.
“Hunger strike is a very serious matter. It is a sign of an extreme desperation… There has been no and will never be a NATO military base in Ulyanovsk. Someone staged a provocation and pushed naïve people into making a silly mistake,” Rogozin wrote in his Twitter account.
“Those spreading the so-called ‘news’ about ‘NATO bases in Russia’ are either provocateurs or idiots. Consider it an official statement,” said Rogozin, who had served as Russia’s envoy to NATO until December 2011.
The Russian Defense Ministry said earlier that goods transported through the territory of Russia will be checked by customs and that the transit hub would neither be a NATO nor a U.S. military base.
Rogozin also said last month that Russia plans to open the so-called multimodal transit of non-lethal cargoes to serve the needs of international security assistance forces in Afghanistan.
Russia has provided its territory for NATO’s Afghanistan-bound cargoes since 2009. Last year, Moscow also agreed to allow the cargoes to cross Russia’s territory in the opposite direction as the alliance is preparing to pull out its troops from Afghanistan.