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Yeltsin, Nazarbayev Agree on 20-Year Lease of Space Launch Site

March 28, 1994 GMT

MOSCOW (AP) _ Russia agreed Monday to lease the Baikonur space launch site in Kazakhstan for 20 years, settling a longstanding dispute, Russian news services reported.

The agreement was one of 23 signed at the Kremlin by Boris Yeltsin of Russia and Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan on political, military and economic cooperation. Among other agreements, they decided Moscow would have control of Kazakhstan’s nuclear arsenal until it is dismantled.

The two former Soviet republics had been arguing about conditions for using Baikonur, the launch site for all manned space flights, since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.

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Under the agreement reached Monday, Russia will pay Kazakhstan $115 million annually for 20 years, with an option to lease the cosmodrome for an additional 10 years. Kazakhstan had been holding out for $150 million a year, Interfax said.

Russian media reports said earlier this month that Moscow was considering plans to build an alternative cosmodrome in the Russian Far East. It was not immediately clear whether Monday’s agreement would put an end to these plans.

At the signing ceremony, President Yeltsin hailed Nazarbayev’s visit to Russia as ″very important.″ The Kazakh president said his visit ″sweeps away all talk and rumors about Russia’s imperial activity,″ ITAR-Tass said.

The two sides agreed that Yeltsin will have operational control over Kazakhstan’s nuclear weapons until Kazakhstan surrenders all its former Soviet warheads to Moscow for dismantling.

The leaders also signed agreements on military cooperation and a treaty on the civil and legal status of Kazakh citizens living in Russia and ethnic Russians living in Kazakhstan.