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For sale: Communist-era ghost town

world Updated: Feb 08, 2010 00:44 IST
GNS/ Luke Harding

For sale: one radar base. Previous owner: the Soviet Union. Price: $3.1m (£2m). Some 20 years after the end of communism, Latvia on Sunday auctioned off one of its most striking cold war artefacts — a Soviet early warning station formerly known as Skrunda-1.

The main 60-metre-high radar tower was blown up a decade ago, but today Latvia’s crisis-hit government sold everything else: 70 buildings including five-storey concrete accommodation blocks, a school, hotel and even a hospital. The buyer was an unnamed Russian investor who paid 10 times the asking price for the abandoned base.

For decades Skrunda-1 played a key role in defending the Soviet Union, scanning the skies for incoming nuclear warheads, as well as rogue meteorites and space debris. In the event that the US unleashed a nuclear Armageddon, the radar station would have immediately warned Moscow. But since the last Russian personnel departed 12 years ago the base has become a ghost town.