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Kyrgyz President Says Customs Union Membership Necessary

Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev says his country must join the Russia-led Customs Union "despite possible price hikes."

Speaking at the meeting of the National Stable Development Council on October 27, Atambaev said that joining the Customs Unions might lead to consumer price increases, but that remaining outside the group would lead to "even more accelerated price increases and inflation."

"We are choosing the lesser evil -- no offense to the member states of this organization," Atambaev said.

The Customs Union now comprises Russia, Belarus, and Kyrgyzstan's big northern neighbor Kazakhstan.

It is one of several organizations Russian President Vladimir Putin is counting on to strengthen ties between former Soviet republics and offset both Western and Chinese influence in the region.

In May, Atambaev and the three Customs Union presidents signed a "road map" under which Kyrgyzstan is to join the group by January 1, 2015.

Based on reporting by KyrTAG and TASS