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Albania reopens communist-era air base after $54 million NATO refurbishment

by Elsa Court and The Kyiv Independent news desk March 4, 2024 7:42 PM 2 min read
Politicians and military staff stand in front of Italian air force Typhoon fighter jets during a ceremony at the newly refurbished NATO-backed airbase in the Albanian city of Kucova, Albania, on March 4, 2024. (Photo by STRINGER / AFP) (STRINGER/AFP via Getty Images)
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Kucova air base in Albania reopened on March 4 after undergoing a 50 million euro ($54 million) NATO refurbishment, making it the region's largest NATO tactical air base.

The base adds to the security in the Western Balkans, which is a region endangered by the "threat and neo-imperialist ambitions of the Russian Federation," Albania's Prime Minister Edi Rama said at the inaugural ceremony.

Located 60 kilometers (38 miles) south of Tirana, Kucova air base was originally opened in 1955, when Albania was a one-party communist state.

"Albania, with this base that we are reopening today, was considered a strategic outpost," for the Soviet Union at the time, Rama said.

The base has "a defensive and deterrent mission" and is "an important center for NATO operations," Albania’s President Bajram Begaj said, as cited by Euronews Albania.

Two fighter jets flew from a NATO air base in Italy and landed at Kucova to mark the reopening.

According to Rama, the base will station three Turkish Bayraktar drones and two new Black Hawk helicopters.

The renovation began in 2019 and has been NATO's biggest project in Albania in the last 10 years.

The reopening comes a week after President Volodymyr Zelensky visited Albania for the second Ukraine-Southeast Europe summit, which was hosted by Tirana.

During the visit, Zelensky signed a Treaty on Friendship and Cooperation with Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama and met other European leaders.

Kuleba: Albania to open embassy in Kyiv soon
Albania is planning to open its embassy in Kyiv “soon,” Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on social platform X on Feb. 28 after meeting his Albanian counterpart Igli Hasani in Tirana.

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