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Medvedev urges completion of aircraft carrier for India

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The Russian president said on Thursday that modernization of the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier should be completed as soon as possible so that it can be delivered to India in 2012.

SEVERODVINSK, July 2 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian president said on Thursday that modernization of the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier should be completed as soon as possible so that it can be delivered to India in 2012.

Dmitry Medvedev said the Gorshkov project had become, in effect, the only issue in Russian-Indian relations.

"This is the first, very difficult experience. The ship must be finished," he said. "Otherwise there will be serious consequences."

India and Russia have yet to agree on the cost of overhauling the Admiral Gorshkov for the Indian Navy (to be renamed Vikramaditya).

Under the original $1.5 billion 2004 contract between Russia's state-run arms exporter Rosoboronexport and the Indian Navy, which includes delivery of MiG-29K Fulcrum carrier-based fighters, the work on the aircraft carrier was to have been completed in 2008.

However, Russia later claimed it had underestimated the scale and the cost of the modernization, and asked for an additional $1.4 billion, which New Delhi said was "exorbitant."

Indian officials familiar with negotiations said the eventual figure would be closer to the $2.2 billion estimate.

The aircraft carrier is currently docked at the Sevmash shipyard in northern Russia, with over 2,000 workers employed on the project.

The Admiral Gorshkov is to replace India's INS Viraat, which, although currently operational, is now 50 years old.

After modernization, the carrier is expected to be seaworthy for 30 years.

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