Russia is in talks with Kyrgyzstan to expand its military presence in the volatile central Asian nation by setting up a training center in the south, the Kyrgyz foreign minister told AFP.
“We are discussing the possibility of creating a training base in the south of Kyrgyzstan,” Ruslan Kazakbayev told AFP in an interview conducted June 24.
The training base was part of ongoing discussions to conclude an agreement under which “all of Russia’s existing military installations on our territory will be merged into one,” he said.
Russia already operates one base in Kyrgyzstan, the Kant airbase outside the capital Bishkek, as well as several other installations such as a seismic station providing data for strategic missile forces.
Moscow had been in talks about opening a second military base in Kyrgyzstan with the country’s previous administration led by Kurmanbek Bakiyev before he was ousted in a violent uprising last year.
Both the United States and Russia jostle for military influence in a region gaining in strategic importance owing to its proximity to Afghanistan.
Washington also operates a military base in Kyrgyzstan, making it the only country in the world to house both Russian and U.S. bases.
Russia lobbied for the closure of the U.S. base but Bishkek eventually agreed to keep it open after Washington more than tripled the rent paid to use Manas. Kazakbayev said the Kyrgyz government and Washington were in similar talks.
“We are also working with the U.S. government in this direction,” he said without being more specific. “I would like to stress that a decision on these issues will be made in a transparent manner and will take into account our country’s national interests.”
Under the current agreement with Washington, the Manas base, a pivotal transit hub for troops and supplies for the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, will be stationed in Kyrgyzstan until 2014.
Bloody riots rocked the country last June, becoming the worst inter-ethnic clashes to hit Kyrgyzstan since the collapse of the Soviet Union and taking place two months after violent protests deposed Bakiyev.