Kyrgyzstan and Russia presidents discuss military cooperation, EEU ties

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BISHKEK (TCA) — Russian President Vladimir Putin said after his talks with Kyrgyzstan President Almazbek Atambayev in Bishkek on February 28 that Moscow and Bishkek have agreed to strengthen military and technical cooperation to face terrorist and criminal threats, and that Russia is ready to close its military base in Kyrgyzstan should Bishkek ask for it, Sputnik news agency reported.

“We agreed to actively strengthen bilateral, military and military-technical cooperation. We confirmed a common understanding that the Russian military base’s presence is an important factor in ensuring stability and security in the Central Asian region,” Putin said at his joint press conference with Atambayev.

He said that talks with Almazbek Atambayev centered on threats facing the Central Asian region, including anti-terrorism, drug trafficking and cross-border organized crime.

“If Kyrgyzstan ever says that it has strengthened its armed forces so much that this base is not necessary, we will leave that same day,” Putin said.

He echoed Atambayev’s statement earlier that their high-level talks did not focus on the expansion of the existing Russian base in Kyrgyzstan.

At his talks with Putin earlier today, Atambayev said that Kyrgyzstan’s entry to the Eurasian Economic Union was the right decision, the Kyrgyz president’s press service reported.  

The EEU now includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Russia.

Atambayev also said that he is sure that by the end of the year, with the help of “brotherly Russia” Kyrgyzstan will solve the remaining issues concerning the country’s full-fledged entry to the EEU, and that some small barriers will be eliminated by yearend.   

According to Russian presidential aide Yury Ushakov, Putin might soon visit Bishkek again, potentially in April-May, when Kyrgyzstan will host the Eurasian Economic Union summit, Russian news agency TASS reported.

Russia is one of the leading trading partners of Kyrgyzstan. In 2016, trade between the two countries fell by 13% to $1.2 billion due to the volatility of foreign exchange rates and commodity prices. At the same time, due to the accession of Kyrgyzstan to the EEU, Kyrgyz exports to Russia (mainly food and agricultural products) increased significantly in 2016 — up to $171 million.

Sergey Kwan

TCA