Security

In controversial move, Russia set to own runway at military base in Kyrgyzstan

By Kanat Altynbayev

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A Russian Su-25 operating from the Kant air base in Kyrgyzstan takes part in tactical exercises at the Edelweiss range on July 11, 2018. [Russian Defence Ministry]

BISHKEK -- The Russian regime is set to own the land on which a runway sits at its air base in Kyrgyzstan -- a move that has sparked widespread discontent among locals and politicians.

Russia has operated a joint air base at Kant since 2003 as part of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a regional military bloc co-ordinated by Moscow and to which Kyrgyzstan belongs.

For many years Russia did not pay to use Kyrgyz land and did not establish an agreement to pay rent until September 2012.

On June 12, Kyrgyzstan's parliament approved the third and final reading of a bill amending the agreement on Russian use of the military base, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

Under the new deal, the runway at the base will belong to the Russian regime as it undergoes renovation and for 15 years after the completion of repairs.

Moscow is allocating 2 billion RUB ($28.6 million) to repair the asphalt, provided that the Kyrgyz parliament legalises Russian possession of the runway.

Analysts alarmed

News of the transfer has provoked heated indignation both in political circles and among the public.

The text of the agreement had a number of shortcomings, said Ulukbek Ormonov, a member of parliament, as cited by the Kyrgyz service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL).

"You're saying now that if the right of ownership isn't transferred to Russia, it won't allocate funding to upgrade it," he said.

"We rented them a military air base. Let them repair it," he added.

Kyrgyzstan's Land Code prohibits the transfer of state land to other countries, said Gulnara Jurabayeva, a Bishkek-based human rights activist and a member of the Central Election Commission.

Kyrgyz authorities should be guided by local laws and national interests, she said.

"As a civil society activist, I don't understand why the legal ownership of the runway is being granted," Jurabayeva said, adding that the Russian air base in Kyrgyzstan does not operate transparently.

"We don’t know how planes and soldiers fly in and out of the country. It was previously considered a CSTO base, but now it will be only Russian. It's impossible to understand anything," she said.

The air base needs to operate transparently, while all the agreements between the two countries have been discussed publicly, she added.

"There is already concern that such an action will lead to the loss of the air base. This bill isn't in the interests of Kyrgyzstan's citizens, and that's why it's causing outrage," said Jurabayeva.

Bakyt Omurzakov, a Bishkek resident, cast doubt on the validity of the revised agreement.

"This is the first time I've heard strange wording like this -- the right of ownership to a concrete slab. Does that mean there's also a right to paving stone, gravel or tile?" he said, referring to the runway.

"History has shown that Russia has encroached on the territory of other countries and then stayed there, a Bishkek political analyst, Ruslan Akmatbek, told RFE/RL.

Threatening Kyrgyzstan's independence

The agreement recently ratified by the Kyrgyz parliament introduced amendments on raising the Russian lease payment for the Kant air base.

Surveys of the plots of land leased by Russia in 2017 ascertained that the base covered 924.52 hectares, rather than the 866.2 hectares indicated in documents, RFE/RL reported.

This means that Moscow had been underpaying Bishkek for five years.

Also in 2012, when the two sides first signed the agreement to pay rent, a combined Russian base encompassing four facilities was established in Kyrgyzstan: the Kant air base; an antisubmarine weapons-testing station in Karakol, near Lake Issyk-Kul; a communication centre in the village of Chaldovar; and an autonomous seismic station in Mailu-Suu.

Meanwhile, Kyrgyz citizens are uneasy about Russia's intensifying military presence in the country.

"Suppose sometime in the future we hear a slogan of Russian flag-wavers: 'Kant is ours!'?" asked Omurbek Dyikanbayev, a Kant resident, alluding to the 2014 annexation of Crimea and the subsequent appearance of the Russian-language hashtag "Crimea is ours".

An even-handed, in-depth public discussion should have taken place, said Emil Umetaliyev, an entrepreneur and former Kyrgyz economy minister.

"It seems that this decision is leading us away from the path of building a democracy, which we embarked on in the 1990s. The most important question is whether we are still faithful to the oath to protect our independence," he told RFE/RL.

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62 Comment(s)
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There's a Kazakh saying: "If you are friends with a Russian, keep your axe close by."

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...are we going to ask the people?

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Why is such a military airbase necessary in Kyrgyzstan? Who is it capable of repelling? It's not going to protect [Kyrgyzstan] from China for sure. So, there's no benefit from this airbase whatsoever. They are much more reminiscent of occupiers.

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[They] have destroyed their Frunze 1 airbase. Cows walk down the runway. Aircraft are grounded. What annexation of Crimea? Learn history.

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It is the result of the collapse of the USSR. [You] have not created your own during independence. You are finishing up the leftovers of the Soviet economy. Blatant capitalism is flourishing. You will be Chinese or Turkish slaves if you don't stay with Russia. Learn the history of the Russian empire the formation of the Kyrgyz SSR. Independence means a strong economy, your army getting everything from ammo to equipment made by the country's plants and factories, not beseeching Russia [to give that]; a globally recognised robust currency not pegged to the dollar. Then you can dictate terms instead of begging for treats from other countries while driving your children and grandchildren into impoverishment. In a nutshell, leadership is playing a game. "Winter will be no more."

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Who on Earth needs your impoverished fascist Russia.

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Who needs your wooden trash? Get out of Kant. "Rus dostun olsa, yastığın tübünde balta olsun" — "If you have a Russian neighbour, keep your axe under the pillow."

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You are whining, bumpkins. What has the Russian base lost in Kyrgyzstan?

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Damn! When it comes to writing off debts and borrowing from Russia, I never freaking hear about this shit storm. But as soon as [they start discussing] Kant, they start barking, pro-Yank curs!

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It would be better for Russia to lawfully acquire that, rather that do as neighboring countries that get as much land as they want, and own it for free no matter what.

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Very interesting: if the base gets shut down, then let the protection go away, too. The Chinese and the Uzbeks, along with the Kazakhs, will divide the country between themselves right away. China has wanted that for a long time, but is afraid of Russia. The base will go, and the CIS Development Bank, the EEU Development Bank and other companies will go along with it. Everybody mentions gas; then pay global prices to buy it. Why stop midway? But don't forget where the pipes are coming from and how much you owed. And Russia has paid for it. How much have the two presidents and their cronies made off that already. I can go on and on, more than the number of symbols allowed here. Call the USA, let them have a second Somalia here!!!!

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Ivans, go to your Russia.

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We will vamoose but take Gastarbeiter Kirgisische [Kyrgyz guest workers] from Russia. And then put out for the Chinese right away. General Panfilov was a Vanka [diminutive of Ivan], Logvinenko was a Vanka, hetman Lukyanov, a participant in the Khivan campaign, was a Vanka.

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Logvinenko was Ukrainian. That means he killed Van'kas.

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This base should be relocated to Ryazan or Uryupinsk. That's where it belongs!

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Got into a mess

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Russians, go back home!

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We are home! Take your one million brothers back to your home!!!

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That's a worthwhile answer!!!

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First off, take four million of your Russians back

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That's why I don't support our government - because we owe Russia large sums of money and, if we refuse [to pay], Russia can take one of our mines away from us as they did with gas. That's my opinion.

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A total provocation - good job!

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Let them board their planes and go home

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We don't need the Russian occupation base here.

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Russia will never allow Kyrgyzstan to be prosperous! It will never build automotive, tractor, and other equipment plants in Kyrgyzstan; it's going to impose its own. If Kyrgyzstan becomes a rich country, it will stop obeying Russia. An underdeveloped Kyrgyzstan benefits Russia because Kyrgyzstan bows to Russia as if it's a landlord and master. Now the spot natural gas price is 40 bucks, but Russia sells to Kyrgyzstan for 140 bucks. The same is true for oil. So, Kyrgyzstan is already a slave of Russia!

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You're right, so the Kyrgyz are better off without Russia

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The Russian airbase should be CLOSED L O S E D

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Wherever Russia comes, it brings poverty and war.

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Is it ours, yours, theirs, or whose Kyrgyzstan? What's the difference? The main thing is people should live there! And that peace prevails! Wealth and prosperity. It doesn't matter whether Kyrgyz or blacks, or Arabs, or Urus live there. Planet Earth belongs to all of us

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[WE NEED TO] SEND OFF ALL FOREIGNERS FROM OUR TERRITORY AND CREATE OUR OWN ARMY THAT ONLY COOPERATES WITH TURKEY AND MUSLIM COUNTRIES

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With the Turks?? ))) Don't make me laugh...

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Turks mean that the country is toast

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Turkey is about 385928 times better than this rubbish Russia

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Russia is an aggressive imperial creature; it should not be here.

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You are slaves with no principles without Russia. Have you got just enough spirit to abuse Uzbeks in the south? Is it not true just because Karimov was too scared and never protected them? But if your patriots get their ass kicked and 50% of citizens are expelled, the authorities will bite their tongue quickly!

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Get the hell out of here with your flawed Russia

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It was Russia that pitted Uzbeks and Kyrgyz against each other in Osh.

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[We] need a union of the Central Asian countries and Turkey. And thank you very much, Russia; bye now.

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Without Russia we Kyrgyz are doomed; they will seize us to pay our debt.

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You are Russian, aren't you?

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What kind of help from Russia? RusHydro [a Russian hydroelectricity company] stopped construction on the hydroelectric plant. We pay three times more than world prices for gas and gasoline. Wherever Russia is there is war and economic backwardness; it has always and everywhere been the case. Traitors. Russia is an aggressor. Keep watching Solovyov and Kisilev, dumb beasts.

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I'm shocked! Why did nobody raise that question last year when Russia helped with vaccinations? There was a choir saying that Russia is an old trusted friend and crucial strategic partner! Look at the market; 80% of goods are Russian made. How is Russia a threat to your independence? Where will Kyrgyzstan be without Russia? With Trump, one would guess? :) Best of luck! Half of all Kyrgyz citizens have Russian citizenship. Indeed, true words by the [management of the] ski resort "ZIL." You can't invest money in this country, they will let you develop a business and then take everything away from you! Right on the money! I believe the president of Russia can see that. Where is Kant going to end up without the Russian base: that's right, where it has always been! Good job! Let Gazprom leave as well! Buy gas from Uzbeks as you did before. You only want to make three more times as much money.

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The Russian airbase should leave Kyrgyzstan. You were guests; now it's time to go home.

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There's nothing like this here. Russia always helps our country

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Umetalieva is absolutely right. For starters, this base is a threat to Kyrgyzstan itself; it should be closed down.

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Whoever wrote this article is a liar. Many Kyrgyz are happy with that; only foes of Kyrgyzstan and Russia are unhappy. Otherwise, everything is excellent here. Welcome, Russian military base!

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Russia should get a powerful kick right where its tailbone ends.

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It'll be a mistake if Russia leaves!

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I respect our brotherly Kyrgyz people and the President of that country for his bravery and judgment. My utmost respect goes to Gulnara Dzhurabaeva for her patriotism, civility, and professional approach to the critical issues and interests of the people and state! Not only should women model themselves after this lady, but the statesmen and other countries as well! Respectfully and big Salam [Hello] from Kazakhstan.

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We don't need the Russian airbase

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You've become shameless; Russia is helping you sheeple so much, but you are so dishonest. You will be fucking finished if Russia quits on you.

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How disrespectful! Whoever writes this is a dunderhead if they believe Russia helps for free.

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Hey pig, what is "Rissia?" [in response to a misspelled comment]

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And [it] gives continuous loans and grants and then writes them off; or did [they] buy a fancy SUV?

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Drive the Russians out from there, period.

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And what's gonna happen next? Will you give it away to China? Or will you be flying yourselves? The question is what are you going to fly :))))

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Does Russia have flying, not falling aircraft? :)))

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That air base should just be shut down.

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I never considered Russia a threat. They are very good neighbors

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These Russians are dangerous, don't forget Crimea

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Stupidity, Central Asian countries must immediately make economic and military bloc, or else we will become a third world country as usual

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It is not about the entrance of the Russia, but about its exit when the time comes. Russia is like an octopus. It gets involved everywhere. And the bad thing is that it never leaves peacefully without conspiracies. It never happened in history. And simple saying as "Kant is ours" shall happen in practice, too.

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