Russian parliament ratifies US Afghan transit deal

Russia's lower house of parliament ratified an agreement Friday to allow the United States to ferry troops and supplies across Russian territory for military operations in Afghanistan.

The Kremlin-controlled State Duma voted 347-95 in favor of the 2009 deal, which has already been implemented pending ratification.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told the Duma that there have been 780 U.S. flights over Russia — carrying 115,000 U.S. troops and more than 19,000 metric tons of cargo to and from Afghanistan — since September 2009.

Ryabkov said the air route has accounted for 16 percent of all U.S. military shipments to and from the country. He said the agreement has helped improve ties with the U.S. and NATO and protects Russia's interests in other areas.

Russia has struck similar deals with Germany, France and Spain and has touted them as a key contribution to international efforts to stabilize Afghanistan.

Communists, who opposed the ratification, denounced the agreement with the U.S. as a "unilateral concession."