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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Leningrad Plans Regional Cargo Airport

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Leningrad Oblast last week unveiled yet another ambitious infrastructure project -- a $160 million cargo airport near Vyborg that officials hope to have partly up and running by the end of the year.

The cargo airport will be constructed on the grounds of an abandoned military airport in Veshchevo, a small village on the Karelian Peninsula.

Governor Vadim Gustov said the Veshchevo airport will be a priority for his administration, along with three separate ports in the Gulf of Finland that the region hopes to build from scratch.

The sites along the gulf are a dry cargo port in the village of Ust-Luga, an oil and gas terminal in the village of Primorsk and a diesel fuel port at Bukhta Batareinaya, or Batareinaya Bay.

Seventeen deputies from the Russian State Duma visited St. Petersburg on April 28 to hear about the three port projects and the fourth newly unveiled airport construction plan.

Sergei Belyayev, head of the Our Home is Russia party, offered his support in lobbying for the projects on the condition that the oblast "arrange them in some reasonable order of priority."

Oblast officials said the Vyborg airport should be fully operational within 2 1/2 years. Only $15 million of the eventual $150 million price tag is needed in 1997, according to the financial plan.

The airport will eventually turn over $29 million daily, said Valery Gudin, general director of the Leningrad oblast-created enterprise that will oversee the Vyborg airport's construction and operation.

Gudin said the oblast was negotiating with unspecified investors in the Netherlands, adding that the regional administration will offer guarantees to investors.

"There are piles of investors," he said. "They are looking for us."

The new airport will be competing directly with St. Petersburg city's Pulkovo Airport. But Paul Duffy, a consultant on the Russian aviation industry, said he thought the northwest Russian region could support a second cargo airport -- provided it would be well-planned and managed.

"They seem to have done fairly good work on the [Vyborg] project. The homework is quite good, and they have some support from local banks," Duffy said. He added that the 2 1/2-year timetable for the construction of the airport "is a bit quick."

Other analysts, however, were more skeptical about the project. One source at a European bank called Vyborg "a dot on the map, on the road to nowhere, someplace no one's ever heard of."

"It's ridiculous, over-optimistic and completely unrealistic," added the source.

Project managers expect the airport to pick up traffic in cargoes moving between Europe and Russia and transit traffic between North America and Asia.