12:21 GMT +3 hours27 November 2014
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Russia Approves Ulyanovsk NATO Hub

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The Russian government has given approval for the United States and its NATO allies to use a Russian air base in the Volga city of Ulyanovsk as a hub for transits to and from Afghanistan.

The Russian government has given approval for the United States and its NATO allies to use a Russian air base in the Volga city of Ulyanovsk as a hub for transits to and from Afghanistan.

The decree is dated June 25.

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 to establish 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 that the hub would see the "transit of exclusively non-lethal cargoes."