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Kyrgyz Deny Second Russian Base Is In The Works

President Bakiev raised his hand in February for the eviction of U.S. forces from Manas.
Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev has denied reports suggesting that Russia will open a second military base on Kyrgyz territory, stressing that the military installation in question would be used for counterterrorism training for both Kyrgyz and Russian troops, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports.

The comments follow reports last week that Moscow was preparing to set up a military base in the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh that would operate under the auspices of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a Russian-dominated security grouping that brings together seven former Soviet countries.

Signs of increased military presence by any outside powers are watched carefully in Central Asia, where entrenched leaders jealously vie for regional influence, and in major international power centers like Beijing, Moscow, and Washington.

Bakiev's acknowledgement of the existence of talks over the joint training center came during an interview with "The New York Times" that was broadcast on Kyrgyz television on July 16.

"Training on how to fight international terrorism, which can arise in southern Kyrgyzstan at any time, would be conducted [there], so it's for the joint training of our soldiers and Russian soldiers against international terrorism," Bakiev said, according to RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service. "It is only for that."

Bakiev said that Batken, Osh, and Jalalabat provinces were being considered as potential locations.

A number of sources in Uzbekistan, which abuts southern Kyrgyzstan, have already expressed opposition to the notion of a Russian base in the region.

Russia currently operates Kant air base in northern Kyrgyzstan, outside the capital, Bishkek.

"There are no particular [security] problems in northern Kyrgyzstan -- our neighbors are there, China and Kazakhstan. Besides, Kant air base is located there," Bakiev said. "Most of the problems occur in the south, in Batken Province, which borders Tajikistan, which shares common borders with Afghanistan."

Talk of a new Russian base on Kyrgyz territory led to a flurry of debate in the country, which ended a lease for U.S. use of an air base in Manas during a visit by Bakiev to Moscow in February.

Bakiev cited an unsatisfactory financial arrangement for ending the U.S. lease of Manas, a vital military site to support U.S.-led operations in Afghanistan.

Earlier this month, Bishkek officially announced a new deal with Washington that would allow U.S. forces to continue using Manas air base. U.S. officials reportedly agreed to pay $60 million a year for use of the base, up from just over $17 million a year under the earlier arrangement.

The new deal is worth an estimated $180 million altogether, including the provision of funds for infrastructure development and fighting terrorism and drug trafficking.

An unnamed Kyrgyz official added to the debate within Kyrgyzstan over the placement of foreign forces on its soil when he was quoted by media last week as saying Russia would take control of several Kyrgyz military sites as a part of a bilateral agreement that was signed during Bakiev's February Moscow visit.

Kyrgyzstan secured a $2 billion package of Russian loans and investment projects during that meeting.

written by RFE/RL correspondent Farangis Najibullah