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Thursday, 18 October, 2001, 05:21 GMT 06:21 UK
Russia shuts Cuban radar base
The Lourdes radar facility
The base was always seen as a threat to the US
Russia is shutting down a radar base in Cuba, President Vladimir Putin has announced.

The Lourdes station, where around 1,500 Russians are based, was too expensive to maintain, he said.

The base, which houses radar and electronic equipment, has been a sore point in relations with the United States, which says it has been used as a centre for spying on America.

Vladimir Putin
Putin: Shutting base will save money

The US Congress voted last year to restrict financial aid to Russia unless it closed the base.

Mr Putin stressed the decision did not mean its relations with Cuba - a key Cold War ally - were being scaled down.

"It costs 200 million dollars a year in rent to Cuba. For that amount, we can buy and launch 20 military satellites into space," said the Russian chief of staff, General Anatoly Kvashnin.

A naval base at Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam is also being closed.

General Kvashnin said the closures would allow Russia "to resolve a lot of financial matters".

Cost-cutting

The BBC's Robert Parsons in Moscow says the closures have come as a surprise - and only last year Mr Putin told the staff during a visit that their mission played a very important role in government decision-making.


The president called on us to seek ways that could save resources

General Anatoly Kvashnin
The decision, he says, may reflect the new mood of co-operation with the US since the 11 September terror attacks, although the moves will also save millions of dollars.

Officials quoted by the Associated Press news agency said the closure decisions had been taken at a "stormy" meeting of senior military leaders, chaired by Mr Putin.

"The president called on us to seek ways that could save resources, including those within (the military)," said General Kvashnin.

The Lourdes base, outside Havana, is land leased from Cuba in exchange for crude oil and other supplies.

Denying the US spy claims, Moscow has always made clear it sees the base as vital for checking whether the US has complied with disarmament treaties, and for monitoring missile launches.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Bob Berry
"The decision to close the Lourdes base will mean the end of a forty year chapter of the Cold War"
See also:

20 Jul 00 | Americas
Spying row blocks US-Russian deal
22 Mar 01 | Americas
Cold War enemies make up
23 Feb 98 | Americas
CIA blamed over Bay of Pigs
14 Dec 00 | Americas
Putin touches down in Havana
05 Apr 00 | Europe
Analysis: Spymasters change focus
04 Oct 01 | Europe
Russia is 'safe partner' for West
03 Oct 01 | Europe
Analysis: Putin looks West
04 Oct 01 | Europe
Analysis: Moscow's mood shift
03 Oct 01 | Europe
Russia closes ranks with EU
25 Sep 01 | Europe
A significant step for Russia
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