Radar site in south Russia to be put on combat duty in Feb. 2009

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Russia's new Voronezh-type radar site in the southern town of Armavir will be put on combat duty in February 2009, the commander of the Russian Space Forces said on Monday.
MOSCOW, May 19 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's new Voronezh-type radar site in the southern town of Armavir will be put on combat duty in February 2009, the commander of the Russian Space Forces said on Monday.

"To be exact, on February 26, the radar will be capable of replacing the missile attack warning sites in Mukachevo [western Ukraine] and Sevastopol [the Crimea]," Colonel General Vladimir Popovkin told journalists.

Popovkin said Russia and Ukraine had withdrawn from the agreement on using these radar sites. The agreement, signed in 1997, defined the main principles for using early-warning missile systems located in Ukraine, as well as the operational order for Mukachevo and Sevastopol units and their provision, funding, modernization and reconstruction.

"The Space Forces had a choice - whether to repair the obsolete Ukrainian radars or start work to build a new station near Armavir. The decision was made to build the new station so that it could be put on experimental combat duty by December 2008," Popovkin said.

With an effective range of 4,000 kilometers (2,500 miles) the Voronezh-type radar has capabilities similar to its predecessors, the Dnepr and Daryal, which are currently deployed outside Russia, but uses less power and is more environmentally friendly.

Washington wants to place 10 missile interceptors in Poland and a radar station in the neighboring Czech Republic, purportedly to counter a missile threat from Iran and other "rogue" states. Russia has fiercely opposed the plans, saying the European shield would destroy the strategic balance of forces and threaten Russia's national interests.

Former president Vladimir Putin proposed last year setting up missile defense information exchange centers in Moscow and Brussels. Russia has also offered the U.S. use of radar stations at Armavir and Gabala in Azerbaijan, as alternatives to the missile shield deployment in Central Europe.

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