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Central Asia: Putin Prefers To Visit Local Russians

  • Bruce Pannier

RFE/RL's Bruce Pannier reports Russian president Vladimir Putin appeared to use his recent visit to Central Asia more to score points with the local Russian communities than to mix with local leaders.

Prague, 13 October 2000 (RFE/RL) -- Russian president Vladimir Putin has ended a trip to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

Our correspondent reports that while the Russian leader spent time with local officials and attended summits of different CIS organizations, he seemed equally if not more interested in demonstrating support for the Russian populations of the two countries.

Putin arrived Monday in the Kazakh capital Astana for a meeting of the CIS customs union planned for the following day.

He spent Monday evening with Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev. But the next day, he kept CIS leaders waiting so that he could visit with representatives of the local Russian population at a nearby hotel. He said afterward he wanted to meet compatriots and listen to their problems.

From there Putin went to Lem Gumilev Eurasian university so that he could meet with some Russian citizens attending that school.

Only later did he attend the customs union summit, where he and the leaders of four other CIS countries -- Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Belarus -- formally transformed their union into the Eurasian Economic Community.

The next stop for Putin was Kyrgyzstan on Wednesday for a summit of CIS collective security signatories.

But instead of going straight to that conference, held outside the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek, Putin went to a thermal heating plant -- leaving the presidents of Kazakhstan, Belarus, Tajikistan and Armenia temporarily alone to ponder collective security without him.

Putin's reason for going to the power plant: the generator was built in Russia.

(Merhat Sharipzhan of Kazakh Service and Naryn Idinov of the Kyrgyz Service contributed to this report)

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