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Putin Hosts CIS And Eurasian Economic Union Summits In Sochi

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov (left) presents Russian President Vladimir Putin with a Central Asian Shepherd puppy on the sidelines of the CIS summit in Sochi on October 11.

Leaders of several former Soviet republics gathered in the Russian city of Sochi on October 11 for summits of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and the Eurasian Economic Union (EES).

Russian President Vladimir Putin was hosting the meetings of the organizations, which he uses to try to maintain influence in a region where various conflicting interests are at play 26 years after the Soviet collapse.

This year's summit comes amid tension between Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, whose government has accused its larger neighbor of meddling in its October 15 presidential election.

Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev called off his trip to Sochi for the summit on October 9, citing concerns about what his office claimed were plans for election day riots supported by financing from abroad.

That decision came after Atambaev accused Kazakhstan of backing the ruling party candidate's main opponent, Omurbek Babanov, and criticized Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev, who met with Babanov in September.

On October 10, Putin met separately with Tajik President Emomali Rahmon and Moldovan President Igor Dodon -- a pro-Russian politician who has frequently praised Putin and is at odds with his country's pro-European government.

Before the CIS summit got under way on October 11, Putin met with Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, who handed him a large Central Asian Shepherd puppy as a birthday gift.

Putin, who turned 65 on October 7, is widely expected to seek a new six-year term in a March 2018 election.

Putin thanked Berdymukhammedov -- whose isolated country says it is neutral and has associate status in the CIS, rather than full-fledged membership -- for attending the summit.

Putin was also meeting with Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev ahead of the CIS summit.

Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan are CIS member-states.

The Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia never joined the CIS.

Georgia withdrew from the CIS after a war with Russia in 2008. Ukraine has associate membership, but its pro-Western leaders have stayed away from the organization since Russia occupied Crimea in 2014 and backed separatists in a war in eastern Ukraine.

After the CIS summit, leaders of the EES member-states -- Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Russia -- were to meet later on October 11 for a session of what they call the Supreme Economic Council of the organization.

With reporting by TASS, Interfax, and RIA
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