(RIA Novosti) - Russia's defense minister praised Wednesday military cooperation with Kyrgyzstan and said Russia will continue to develop a military base near the country's capital.
Sergei Ivanov, who is also deputy prime minister, is on a visit to the Central Asian state to attend a joint antiterrorism exercise in the south of the country, reports Trend.
Russia and Kyrgyzstan are both members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a post-Soviet security grouping that also includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan. They are also in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a regional security body in Central Asia that includes China, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan.
Russia established an airbase in Kant, about 20 miles west of the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, in October 2003 to enable Russian combat aircraft to provide close air support for the ground units of CSTO member states.
And Ivanov said Moscow was committed to the facility. "We will continue making major investments in the development of the Kant base not only from the military standpoint but also in the social sphere, because Russian servicemen must have appropriate conditions for their service no matter where they are to ensure that they accomplish the set objectives," he said.
Against the backdrop of tension around the presence of Russian servicemen in Georgia and a dispute with Tbilisi over four Russian officers accused of spying, Ivanov was quick to praise the conditions in Kyrgyzstan.
"Russian servicemen feel safe here," he said during a meeting with Kyrgyzstan Prime Minister Felix Kulov. "Unfortunately, it is not always this way - I can make a comparison with Georgia. It is like heaven and earth."
Ivanov also said Russia was ready to provide military-technical assistance to all its allies, but does not want to impose it. So far, Russia has provided military equipment worth 15 million rubles ($555,000) to Kyrgyzstan as part of their military cooperation agreements.
Prime Minister Kulov said Russia played an important role in strengthening defense capabilities and security of the Central Asian state, which also host an American airbase at the capital's Manas international airport for antiterrorism operations in Afghanistan.
"Contacts with Russia's Defense Ministry primarily aim to strengthen the defense potential of our country," he said, adding that the Kant airbase was a key component of the country's air defenses.
He also said that the current joint antiterrorism exercises in the south of the country were important for ensuring regional security against the backdrop of increased activity of radical Islamic groups in Central Asia.
The exercises began on October 2 and will end October 5 with the firing of live ammunition at the Osh training grounds. The main aim of the exercises is to plan and practice the coordination of combat units in a joint antiterrorism operation, and to improve the combat skills of military personnel during operations in mountainous areas, the Kyrgyz Defense Ministry said earlier.