Naval Chief Admiral Mehta begins Russia tour today

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New Delhi, Mar 13 : Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Suresh Mehta will begin a six-day tour to Russia from today to boost military ties between the two countries.

During his visit, the Naval Chief is expected to hold discussions on vital issues of cooperation with the Russian Navy Commander-in-Chief Admiral Vladimir Vysotsky.

Mehta's visit is also expected to speed up the delivery of the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier and deployment of MiG-29KUB jets on it.

His visit also assumes significance amid indications of Kremlin's willingness to resolve the "issue of Admiral Gorshkov" by the inauguration of the Federation's new President Dmitry Medvedev on May 7.

On Tuesday, Admiral Mehta said that the Government had reconciled itself to a price hike for the procurement of the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov and an experts committee has been constituted to work out the increase.

Admiral Mehta is also scheduled to visit the Sevmash shipyard in Arctic Russia, where the 44.5 thousand tonner "Kiev" class carrier is undergoing refit.

Before leaving for Severodvinsk where Gorshkov is undergoing refit, he will fly on a MiG-29KUB fighter developed by RAC MiG for deployment on Gorshkov aircraft carrier on Friday.

Besides, Naval Chief Mehta will also visit another 'Zvyozdochka' shipyard in Severodvinsk where a "Kilo" class submarine is berthed in frozen sea pending trials in summer.

Sevmash is asking another one billon dollar from India for the completion of the refit by the end of 2010 as it claims the original contract was sketchy and on detailed inspection of the rusting ship required complete re-cabling and replacement of several vital components including its turbines.

Initially, it was decided not to change the key components of the vessel built in 1987 for the Soviet Navy, according to naval sources.

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