Russia seeking US base closure from Kyrgyz leader: report
Russia will grant Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev major financial incentives if he agrees to shut down a strategic US airbase during a visit to Moscow on Tuesday, a Russian broadsheet reported.
Russia is offering the indebted ex-Soviet state a grant of 150 million dollars and a loan of 300 million dollars and is lining up major investment in return for closure of the US airbase in Kyrgyzstan, Kommersant reported.
Citing a source "close to the negotiations," the paper said Russia "has laid down a strict condition: the provision of Russian financial help should lead to an official announcement by Kyrgyzstan on renouncing its obligations on the presence of the American airbase."
Home to over 1,000 foreign troops, the airbase at Manas, near Kyrgyzstan's capital, is a crucial supply station for US operations in Afghanistan and is expected to gain in importance in the coming months, reported AFP.
Russian officials have long been uncomfortable about the US presence in ex-Soviet Central Asia, a region where Moscow had uncontested supremacy in Soviet times.
Rumours have long circulated in Kyrgyzstan that the government might be prepared to close the base under Russian pressure, although US officials maintain that Moscow backs the Western operation to stabilise Afghanistan.
Kommersant noted that Bakiyev was under increasing domestic pressure due to heavy indebtedness, rising unemployment and a strengthening opposition.
Among other incentives Moscow was offering was a write-off of 180 million dollars in debt to Russia in exchange for a controlling stake in a Soviet-era Kyrgyz enterprise producing parts for torpedoes, the paper said.
Negotiations are also under way on Russian involvement in dam building in the country, although these have proved problematic, the paper added.