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Russian Defense Minister Arrives In Kyrgyzstan

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov (file photo) (ITAR-TASS) October 3, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov has arrived in Bishkek for talks with Kyrgyz government officials.

Ivanov, who is also deputy prime minister, is scheduled to meet on October 4 with Prime Minister Feliks Kulov and Defense Minister Ismail Isakov.

On October 5, both Ivanov and Isakov will attend the final phase of a joint Kyrgyz-Russian military drill that started today in the southern Kyrgyz region of Osh.

In comments made to RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, Isakov said the ongoing exercise is taking place outside the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a regional defense grouping of which both Russia and Kyrgyzstan are members.

"This [drill] is a bilateral initiative, and this is the first time ever such an exercise is taking place," Isakov said. "There aren't so many troops involved. One of the aims of the current exercise is to train [our troops] in fighting modern-day international terrorists."

The exercise reportedly involves some 500 Kyrgyz and Russian troops.

Russia's Kant military airbase near Bishkek is expected to provide air support.

On the sidelines of the present drill, Russia will this week transfer military equipment to Kyrgyzstan.

(RFE/RL Kyrgyz Service, with additional Kabar and RIA-Novosti reporting)