Kyrgyzstan wants more cash for Russian base: minister
Kyrgyzstan wants a substantial increase in rent from Moscow if it is to continue hosting a Russian military base on its territory, Kyrgyz Defence Minister Abibilla Kudayberdiyev said Thursday.
Russia has four military installations in Kyrgyzstan, including the airbase at Kant outside Bishkek, which operates under the auspices of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation, a proposed counterweight to NATO.
"The Kyrgyz side is planning to increase the cost of rent two to three times in the new agreement. The lease on these four military installations... was signed in 1993," he said at a news conference in the capital Bishkek.
"Russia paid 4.5 million dollars (3.5 million euros) for them. Because of that, this question needs to be resolved."
Kudayberdiyev, who made the comments after returning from discussions with his Russian counterpart Anatoly Serdyukov in Moscow, also addressed the possibility of Russia paying off its back debt for the bases with arms.
"Today, Russia owes six million dollars (4.62 million euros) in debt for the lease," he said.
"At a meeting with... Serdyukov, we agreed that the Russian side would pay the debt in the near future by giving us weapons."
He stressed, however, that discussions were still ongoing and no agreement had been signed over either the base or the Russian debt.
Kyrgyzstan, an impoverished Central Asian state bordering China, has been wracked by political and ethnic violence this year. It is the only country in the world to host both Russian and US military bases.
Tens of thousands of coalition troops move each month through the US airbase at Manas outside Bishkek, which Washington considers key to its efforts to ensure a diversity of supply lines into war-wracked Afghanistan.
The Kremlin has long bristled at Washington's military presence in what it sees as its traditional geo-strategic backyard, and has sought ways to boost its influence in its former Soviet satellites.
© 2010 AFP