Afghan transit center in Russia's Ulyanovsk proves too expensive for NATO - newspaper
NATO has never used a transit hub that was set up in the Russian city of Ulyanovsk a year ago for the "combined transit" of the alliance's assets being withdrawn from Afghanistan, Russia's Kommersant newspaper reported on Thursday.
"Russia and NATO expected the project of transit via Ulyanovsk, which was launched a year ago, to become one of the most successful examples of cooperation. Moscow hoped that most of the more than 100,000 containers and 60,000 vehicles that the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) planned to withdraw from Afghanistan would be sent to Europe through Ulyanovsk. However, this route has not been used so far," the newspaper said.
NATO headquarters sources told Kommersant that this arrangement had proved to be too expensive. When opening this route across Ulyanovsk, the Russian authorities insisted that only Russian shipping companies should be allowed to service it, one of the sources told Kommersant. The fees set by them were so high that none of the ISAF member countries found this project attractive, he said.
Another source told the Russian newspaper that many ISAF member countries had initially displayed their interest in the Ulyanovsk-based transit hub.
In December 2012, the UK Armed Forces delivered ten containers with supplies to their Camp Bastion military base in Afghanistan and back across Ulyanovsk as an experiment, the newspaper said.
The UK government described this test-run of the Ulyanovsk transit center as successful, but, however, refused to sign any contracts, Kommersant said, citing one of its sources.
A source in the UK government told Kommersant that London prefers other transit options, primarily routes via Pakistan and Central Asian countries, which have recently agreed to open surface and reverse air transit routes.