Moscow: Russian has given the approval for the US and its NATO allies to use a Russian air base in Ulyanovsk city as a hub for transits to and from Afghanistan.

Moscow had announced plans to create a NATO transit hub in Ulyanovsk in March, and the decision was taken on June 25.

The decision sparked protests in the city, the birthplace of Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin.

Veteran Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov termed the deal "humiliating" for Russia. But both NATO and Russian officials have sought to allay fears that the hub would turn out to be a full-fledged base.

"We have no intention to establish a base in Russia," NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said."This is a pragmatic arrangement which allows us to transport non-lethal weapons and troops to benefit our operation in Afghanistan.

"Russia's foreign ministry said in a statement: "There never has been and never will be a NATO military base in Ulyanovsk."It said the hub would see the "transit of exclusively non-lethal cargoes".

(Agencies)

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