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    Armavir radar to be on combat duty late in 2007

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    MOSCOW, October 3 (RIA Novosti) - A state-of-the-art radar being built near Armavir, in southern Russia, will be on combat duty in late 2007, Colonel-General Vladimir Popovkin, the commander of the Russian Space Forces said Wednesday.

    In an interview with Krasnaya Zvezda - Red Star, a Russian military newspaper - Popovkin said the radar located near the town of Armavir, in the Krasnodar Territory would start combat duty in late 2007, updating his previous statements that it would open in 2008.

    The site is about 700 km (450 miles) to the northwest of the Iranian border, and just 100 km (62 miles) to the north of Sochi, the Russian alpine resort on the Black Sea, which will host the 2014 Winter Olympics.

    The general said a similar radar station, located in Lekhtusi, near St. Petersburg, became operational in late 2006. The radar was built to fill a gap in national radar coverage that existed for seven years after the closure in 1998 of an obsolete Dnestr-M radar in the Latvian town of Skrunde, 150 km (93 miles) from the ex-Soviet Baltic capital of Riga.

    Russia leases ground-based radar stations in Baranovichi, Belarus; Sevastopol and Mukachevo, Ukraine; Balkhash, Kazakhstan; and Gabala, Azerbaijan. It also has radars on its own territory in Murmansk, northwest Arctic, Pechora, northwest Urals, and Irkutsk, east Siberia.

    President Vladimir Putin, during his two-day meeting with President George W. Bush in Kennebunkport, Maine, in July, proposed incorporating the new radar into a missile defense system managed by the NATO-Russia Joint Permanent Council.

    Russia also said it was ready to upgrade its early warning radar in Gabala, Azerbaijan, which was also proposed as an alternative to the deployment of an anti-missile shield in Central Europe.

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