Wednesday, 11 June 2008

11 June 2008 News Digest

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By Alima Bissenova (6/11/2008 issue of the CACI Analyst)

Tbilisi demands Moscow withdraw troops from Abkhazia – FM Eka Tkeshelashvili 2 June Tbilisi will demand Moscow withdraw units of Russian railway troops from Abkhazia, Georgian Foreign Minister Eka Tkeshelashvili said. Upon completion of the session of the Georgian Security Council on Monday that was convened by Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili due to the situation in the Abkhazian region, Tkeshelashvili said Georgia “intends to demand Moscow withdraw units of Russian railway troops from Abkhazia”.

“Certainly, we demand Moscow withdraw its railway troops from the Abkhazian region that it deployed on May 31.

Tbilisi demands Moscow withdraw troops from Abkhazia – FM Eka Tkeshelashvili 2 June Tbilisi will demand Moscow withdraw units of Russian railway troops from Abkhazia, Georgian Foreign Minister Eka Tkeshelashvili said. Upon completion of the session of the Georgian Security Council on Monday that was convened by Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili due to the situation in the Abkhazian region, Tkeshelashvili said Georgia “intends to demand Moscow withdraw units of Russian railway troops from Abkhazia”.

“Certainly, we demand Moscow withdraw its railway troops from the Abkhazian region that it deployed on May 31. We also demand Russia pull out its military units, which were illegally deployed in this area under the cover of CIS peacekeeping forces,” Tkeshelashvili said. She described “the withdrawal of a battalion of Russian railway troops in the Abkhazian region as a military intervention”. In her words, “the Georgian authorities’ reaction will be very rigid.” Russian Ambassador to Georgia Vyacheslav Kovalenko said the restoration of the trunk railway in the Abkhazian region would facilitate the settlement of the conflict. “The restoration of the trunk railway in the Abkhazian region would help improve the people’s life, the restoration of trust between Georgia and Abkhazia and the settlement of the conflict,” Kovalenko told journalists. He was summoned to the Georgian Foreign Ministry and presented a note of protest due to the deployment of a battalion of Russian railway troops in the Abkhazian region.

“I don’t understand why this fact arouses so much concern. Any humanitarian action – the restoration of bridges and railway beds is aimed at improving the people’s life living in this region. The better the people live the less they will have military intentions and it will be easier to restore trust between the warring sides,” the Russian ambassador said. In his view, “the improvement of life in the conflict area will help resume the negotiations between the direct participants in the talks, ease tension, create the atmosphere of trust and steel the conflict by meeting the interests of all sides.” Georgia’s Defence Ministry considers the deployment of a battalion of Russian railway troops in the Abkhazian region “preparations of Russia’s infrastructure for the military intervention”. Deputy Defence Minister Batu Kuteliya told journalists: “The deployment of units of Russia’s railway troops in the Abkhazian region is preparations of Russia’s infrastructure for the military intervention in order to annex this part of Georgia. Any such Russia’s actions will give an adequate assessment from the international community.” Georgian State Minister for Re-integration Temuri Yakobashvili called on Russia “to withdraw units of railway troops from the Abkhazian region that were deployed there without coordination with the Georgian authorities”. (Itar-Tass)

 

Kyrgyzstan wants larger stake in Centerra, more tax 5 June Kyrgyzstan's parliament urged the government on Wednesday to seek a larger stake in the Kumtor gold mine and press for a higher tax rate in its talks with Canada's Centerra Gold. Worries about potential nationalisation of the mine sent Centerra stock down 8 percent on Monday when its framework agreement with the Central Asian state expired after a June 1 ratification deadline. Kyrgyzstan's deputy parliament speaker Kubanychbek Isabekov said a parliamentary committee urged the government to continue talks while seeking more favourable terms. "We have suggested a tax rate of 18 percent," Isabekov said. "It was 40 percent stake," he said. The earlier deal, turned down by the parliament, would have doubled the country's stake in Centerra to about 30 percent, while uranium miner Cameco's stake would drop to just under 40 percent from 53 percent. The agreement also aimed at replacing Kumtor's current tax regime with a simplified system taxing revenue at 11 percent in 2008, 12 percent in 2009, and 13 percent thereafter.When announced on Aug. 30, the deal seemed to quell concerns about the asset's possible nationalisation, but talks hit a stumbling block after the parliament challenged the government's decision and sought to revise the agreement." Kumtor's production accounts for about 4 percent of the impoverished country's gross domestic product. (Reuters)

Georgia’s ruling party gets 119 seats in 150-seat parliament 5 June Georgia’s Central Electoral Commission has published the full final returns from the May 21 parliamentary elections. The ruling party United National Movement gained the greatest number of votes in the elections held on the party ticket principle – 59.18 percent. Another three parties entered parliament – the biggest opposition bloc United Opposition: National Council – New Right (17.23 percent of the votes), oppositional party Georgy Targamadze – Christian Democrats (8.66 percent) and radical opposition Labor Party – 7.44 percent. The CEC’s press-secretary, Zurab Kachkachishvili, told a news briefing in Tbilisi on Thursday the UNM won 48 seats of the 75 contested on the party tickets, United Opposition: National Council – New Right, 15 seats, Georgy Targamadze – Christian Democrats and Labor Party – 6 seats each. In the single mandate constituencies the UNM won 71 seats of the 75, and United Opposition: National Council – New Right – 2 seats. Another two mandates went to the oppositional Republican Party, which failed to clear the 5-percent qualification hurdle in party ticket elections.

The final line-up of forces in parliament is as follows. The UNM will control 119 seats, United Opposition: National Council – New Right – 17 seats, Georgy Targamadze – Christian Democrats and Labor Party – six seats each, and the Republican party, two. (Itar-Tass)

 

Georgia parliament convenes early, thwarts protest 7 June Opposition lawmakers refused to take their seats in Georgia's parliament Saturday, claiming that election-rigging had made it illegitimate. United Opposition chief Levan Gochechiladaze cut up the certificate granting him a seat in the legislature at a small rally in front of the parliament building. But his hopes of mustering tens of thousands of supporters on the first day of the parliament were thwarted when President Mikhail Saakashvili brought the date forward at the last moment. Authorities announced late Friday that the opening session would be held Saturday instead of Tuesday, leaving Saakshvili's opponents with little time to get organized.Opposition leaders have permission to hold demonstrations outside parliament for an 11-day period beginning Sunday; authorities could have intervened Saturday had the crowd become too large. A few busloads of riot police stood several hundred meters (yards) away, and the protesters dispersed at midday. The scheduling change and the presence of police "shows that this is not a popularly elected parliament," United Opposition co-leader David Gamkrelidze said from the steps of the colonnaded legislature as the session went on inside. "A group of bandits has seized power," said another opposition leader, Koba Davitashvili. Last month's parliamentary elections strengthened the pro-Western Saakashvili's grip on power in the ex-Soviet republic of 4.6 million people. Official results gave his ruling National Movement 119 of the 150 seats in the single-chamber legislature. The United Opposition alliance, which won 17 seats, claimed the election was marred by widespread violations, pressure on government opponents and slanted media coverage. (AP)

 

Azerbaijan frets over BP role in gas field 10 June Azerbaijani Minister for Industry and Energy Natig Aliyev expressed concern Wednesday over the role of British Petroleum in development of Azeri gas fields. "This is my private viewpoint that (British Petroleum) postpones this project," Aliyev said. The minister said the development of Stage 2 of the Shah Deniz field was scheduled for 2012, but said delays on the part of British Petroleum pushed that timetable to 2013. The Shah Deniz field is the largest in Azerbaijan. Its reserves could supply Europe with natural gas without traversing politically sensitive countries such as Iran or Russia. British Petroleum holds a 25.5 percent stake in its development. Aliyev said increasing European energy demands means British Petroleum needs to "intensify some processes," the Trend Capital News Agency reported. "I think that peak (in gas production from Stage 2) can be increased to (1.1 trillion cubic feet) in gas a year," he said. (UPI)

 

Azerbaijani, Armenian presidents meet on CIS forum sidelines 6 June The presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia, Ilham Aliyev and Serzh Sargsyan, met in St. Petersburg on Friday on the sidelines of the CIS informal summit, the Azerbaijani state news agency AzerTaj said. The news agency also said that the OSCE Minsk Group cochairmen had taken part in the meeting.  The two foreign ministers, Elmar Mamedyarov and Edvard Nalbandian, said that the meeting was positive and constructive. The media was not permitted to watch the dialog.  The foreign ministers told a press conference that the national leaders “had studied each other’s stands and ordered them to continue cooperation with the OSCE Minsk Group in the Karabakh settlement process.”  The chiefs of state supported further mediation of the OSCE Minsk Group in the Karabakh settlement process, Mamedyarov said. He noted that the sides were coordinating the date of another regional visit of the group cochairmen. The visit may take place in late June, he remarked. “Once we study each other’s stands, we can continue to bring them closer together,” Mamedyarov said. In the opinion of U.S. Cochairman of the OSCE Minsk Group Matthew Bryza, it is necessary to update the group proposals in line with the wishes of the conflicting sides. Russian Cochairman Yuri Merzlyakov voiced the readiness for cooperation and confirmed their goal of practical results. (Itar-Tass)

Gazprom to Invest $200 mln in Iran-Armenia Gas Pipeline 8 June Armenia's Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Armen Movsisyan said that by the end of 2009, the Russian gas giant Gazprom will invest more than 200m US dollars in the construction of the Iran-Armenia gas pipeline. After the completion of construction work, Armenia will have access to another alternative gas pipeline along with the current one from Russia and based on the prices that are offered, will decide which of them it should use. Currently, Armenia pays Russian Gazprom 110 US dollars per 1,000 cu.m. of gas, however, the price will change from 1 January 2009, Arminfo quoted Movsisyan as saying. During his press conference, Armen Movsisyan also touched on the construction of an oil refinery outside Yerevan which will cost two or three billion US dollars. The plant, which will be able to process 7.5m tons of Iranian crude oil per year, will produce petrol and diesel. Speaking about energy projects with Iran, the minister mentioned that a joint hydroelectric power station will be constructed on the border river Araz. The construction of the station with a capacity of about 140 MW will be financed by Iran and will cost 240-250 mln US dollars. The construction work may commence in 2008, the minister said. The minister went on to say that the USA and the EU have allocated 10-12 mln US dollars to update the security of the Armenian nuclear power plant, Arminfo said. Up to now, technical assistance worth 90 mln US dollars has been allocated to update the security of the plant, the agency quoted the minister as saying. Armen Movsisyan added that it is planned to build a new nuclear block in Armenia in 2016 when the existing energy block of the nuclear plant expires. Even though Armenian legislation allows foreign investors to own 100 per cent of stocks, the government intends to control half of the project stocks, the minister said. "If the government does not take part in the project, then this project has no real significance for us," Movsisyan said. However, the operation of the current nuclear block will not be suspended until the new one is built, the minister said. He noted that the technical feasibility of the new plant will be completed by September. (Fars News Agency)

 

Energy shortage is becoming global problem – Bakiev 9 June

Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev has described energy shortages as a global problem and called for guaranteed access to energy resources for countries that have none. "The gap between the countries possessing and disposing of [energy resources] and the countries not having such is being felt increasingly more vividly now," Bakiev said at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum on Saturday. Bakiev suggested that the problem of energy shortage is "becoming global" and called for raising the issue of "responsibility of the first-type countries [possessing energy resources] and global institutions for guaranteeing the planet population's access to resources essential for their survival." The rate at which the energy prices are growing in the developing countries is incomparable with that at which their incomes are growing, Bakiev said. Economic and energy crises "are becoming more and more grave," and their implications threaten increasingly larger numbers of people, he said. "If we do not find a solution, the world will be torn apart," Bakiev said. These problems call for drawing up a global economic program under the UN auspices, Bakiev said. He also pointed to importance of regional cooperation, which he described as "a precondition for survival and development." The countries need to coordinate their national interests and policies for a long term - at least for 10-15 or even "25-30 years," he said. Talking about the problem of distribution of water resources, Bakiev said, "The [Central Asian] region countries will be dragged into bitter water and energy confrontation deeper and deeper from year to year, and therefore we need to form a consolidated water-energy policy based on the joint promotion of our interests," he said. (Interfax)

Uzbek president calls for merging CSTO, EurAsEC

9 June

Uzbek President Islam Karimov called for merging the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and the Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC), as, in his view, they have very similar agendas and duplicate one another to a great extent. "Therefore, it is my opinion and Uzbekistan's opinion that we could set up a powerful organization on the basis of the CSTO and the EurAsEC," Karimov said at a meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in St. Petersburg on Friday. This merger could help the two organizations' member-states "to achieve much more and attain greater results," he said. Medvedev in response suggested discussing various forms of integration between the two international associations. The CSTO comprises Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. The EurAsEC includes Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Armenia, Moldova and Ukraine hold observer status in this organization. (Interfax)

Almaty to expand through suburban villages

9 June

Almaty will enlarge by swallowing nearby villages and uniting them into a new administrative district. According to Almaty city akim, Akhmetzhan Yesimov, the establishment of a new administrative district of the nearby suburbs will unravel an entire knot of problems such as illegal land seizure, unauthorized construction, social protection of local residents, modernization of obsolete infrastructure. "Attaching villages to the city as one administrative unit will solve unemployment and high crime rate issues," Yesimov said on Saturday at the meeting of the city construction development committee. This district is also proposed as a location for a special economic zone with industrial and logistic companies in order to entirely remove industrial production from the city center, ease up traffic and ameliorate environment," he said.  The villages that will join the city will account for one eighth of the city territory with nearly 190,000 of residents. Out of the total 25 bl tenge in financing for development of the adjacent suburban area, only 8 bl tenge have been put to a good use within infrastructure projects, which akim found utterly unacceptable. (Interfax-Kazakhstan)

 

About 2,500 illegal migrants deported from Kazakhstan

9 June

About 18,000 foreigners were found within the Operation Illegal Migrant 2008 in Kazakhstan, the Kazakh Interior Ministry said on Monday. "Administrative charges were brought against 17,844 foreigners and stateless persons, including 17,054 from the CIS and 790 from other countries, for breaching the rules of their stay in the Republic of Kazakhstan," the ministry said on Monday. Courts authorized the deportation of 2,493 foreigners, including 2,346 from the CIS and 147 from other countries. A total of 1,631 people, among them 1,603 from the CIS and 28 from other states, were detained for identification. "Thirty-nine foreigners were detained on suspicions of various crimes, including nine on suspicion of drug possession and dealing and one on suspicion of illegal weapon possession. Thirty-nine criminal cases were opened on charge of violation of migration laws," the ministry said. The Operation Illegal Migrant 2008 was held between June 2 and 6. (Interfax-Kazakhstan)

 

JPMorgan may help Kazakhstan borrow $15 bl

9 June JPMorgan Chase & Co., U.S.'s third largest bank, may help Kazakhstan raise $15 billion through borrowing and issue of securities in the next 5-7 years, said Bloomberg agency. According to JPMorgan Cazenove Vice Chairman Robin Renwick, Kazakhstan will receive short-term investments in its oil and gas sector, steel, chemical, extractive and energy industries. "The investors' interest in Kazakhstan is still very high. We expect a lot of large projects to be implemented here," he said. Renwick is an independent director of Kazakhmys Plc., Kazakhstan's largest copper producer. (Interfax-AFI)

 

Gazprom ready to finish talks with Turkmenistan on European price formula

9 June Gazprom is ready to finalize the talks on the price for Central Asian gas for 2009 by July 1, Gazprom's deputy chief executive officer Alexander Medvedev told journalists."We are prepared to finalize [the talks], if they [Turkmenistan] are ready for this, too. This goal is attainable," he said. The price for gas will be based on the European formula, he also said. "We have been successfully applying this formula with Kazakhstan at Karachaganak," he said. Karachaganak Petroleum Operating B.V. and the KazRosGaz Russian-Kazakh joint venture on June 1 2007 signed a 15-year Karachaganak gas purchase and sale contract for up to 16 billion cubic meters, annually. The price formula, documented in the contract, was not disclosed. Gazprom is the main buyer of Turkmen gas and it buys some 50 cubic meters of gas each year, with the projected increase to 70 billion – 80 billion cubic meters. Turkmenistan also exports gas to Iran via the Korpedje-Kurtkun gas pipeline, and it shipped 8 billion cubic meters of gas in 2007 and 5.4 billion cubic meters in 2006. Projects are under development to lay a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to China with shipments of up to 30 billion cubic meters of gas each year from 2009 for the next 30 years; to link Turkmenistan with Afghanistan, Pakistan and India by a pipeline with an annual capacity of 30 billion cubic meters; to build a Caspian pipeline with an annual capacity to transport 10 billion cubic meters of Turkmen gas and 10 billion cubic meters of Kazakh gas, and to lay a Trans-Caspian gas pipeline. (Interfax)

 

Armenia to do its best for return of four citizens from Azeri captivity 9 June “5 Armenian citizens (4 civilians and 1 serviceman) are kept in Azeri captivity. We possess information that they are subjected to violence and tortures. During a meeting with head of the International Committee of the Red Cross delegation in Armenia, I asked him to take action for return of our citizens. For its part, the Armenia side is ready to transfer Azeri captive Vyusal Eyubov,” Seyran Ohanyan said. “Azerbaijan’s allegations that the captives are officers of the Armenian special forces are absurd,” he added. On April 28, thirteen young men wanted a showdown with the commander of a friend. After the commander fired into the air, they got into cars. Four of them (originally from Noraduz and Gavar) crossed the border accidentally. (PanArmenian.net)

 

Donors to pledge $15B to rebuild Afghanistan 10 June More than 60 countries are expected to pledge close to $15 billion to rebuild Afghanistan at a donor's conference Thursday. The United States will pledge the lion's share of over $10 billion, despite growing frustrations with President Hamid Karzai's leadership, State Department officials said. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they didn't want to upstage first lady Laura Bush, who is expected to announce the U.S. commitment at the conference in Paris, France. State Department officials said that while the United States continues to believe that Karzai is the right leader for Afghanistan, there are some concerns about his leadership. "There is a lot of buzz about Karzai both in Afghanistan and in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world that he is not as strong as he used to be, that he is not that charismatic forceful guy anymore, but maybe a man that might be tired," one official said. "There are a lot of cabinet battles he doesn't win and he has a difficult balancing act." Since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, the United States has provided $26 billion in aid to Afghanistan, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher told reporters Thursday.  Karzai is expected to ask the international community for $50 billion in aid over the next five years for his long-term development strategy for the country, Boucher said Tuesday. (CNN)

 

Gazprom to invest $500 mln in Tajik gas exploration 10 June Russia's Gazprom said on Tuesday it would invest $500 million within the next five years into exploration of four natural gas fields in the Central Asian state of Tajikistan. According to a deal signed on Tuesday between Gazprom and the Tajik government, the Russian gas giant will also build a gas distribution network in the impoverished former Soviet republic. "We are interested in making Tajikistan self-sufficient in terms of fuel and energy because it will ease the economic tensions in the country," Gazprom Deputy Chief Executive Valery Golubev told reporters. The company expects the four fields located in the south and west of Tajikistan - Rengan, Sargazon, Sarykamysh and West Shaambary - to produce around 2 billion cubic metres of gas by 2012 which would meet all the needs of the domestic market. Tajikistan currently relies on neighbouring Uzbekistan for gas supplies. The country suffered an acute energy deficit last winter when Uzbekistan reduced supplies due to severe cold throughout the region. (Reuters)

 

Russia-Belarus-Kazakhstan customs union could start working by 2010 - EurAsEC head

10 June The customs union being formed by Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan within the EurAsEC is expected to start working fully by 2010, said EurAsEc General Secretary Tair Mansurov. "The prospect of forming a customs union between 2008 and 2010 is quite real," Mansurov told Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Tuesday. "The goal of forming a customs union is "to allow citizens of the member-states to enjoy the benefits of economic cooperation," he underlined. Mansurov also said that trade within the Customs Union from 2000 to 2007 jumped from $3.4 billion to over $100 billion. (Interfax)

 

Kazakhstan Investment Fund Invests 2 bl tenge in Maklakovskiy Sawmill

10 June Kazakhstan Investment Fund JSC has acquired a stake in Maklakovskiy timber and wood processing factory OJSC (MLDK). "In May 2008 Kazakhstan Investment Fund acquired a shareholding in MLDK JSC. The Investment Fund now participates in a major project of sawmill's upgrade and its integration into the lumber industry of Kazakhstan," Investment Fund announced on Tuesday. The Fund plans to invest 1.955 bl tenge to upgrade sawmill's equipment. "The sawmill, Russia's wood exporter, will be able double lumber processing up to 400,000 cu meters annually," reads the news release. Currently, MLDK studies an opportunity of establishing a joint venture with Kazakh partners to produce doors and windows using sawmill's products, according to the statement. Investment Fund of Kazakhstan JSC is a development institute of Kazakhstan wholly owned by Kazyna Fund of Sustainable Development. The Investment Fund finances private companies to establish competitive manufactures by participating in the registered capital of new and existing companies. The Fund has registered capital of $314 ml that will be increased in the future. It can finance a project worth up to $300-350 ml by attracting additional credit resources. Maklakovskiy timber and wood processing factory set up in 1916 is among biggest timber exporters in Russia. (Interfax-Kazakhstan)

 

Kazakhstan, Russia holding joint military exercise 10 June

Kazakh and Russian armed forces started a joint command post exercise in Kazakhstan on Monday, the Kazakh military said. The Interaction 2008 exercise, which is being held in Eastern Kazakhstan region, brings together the forces of Kazakhstan's East Regional Command forces and Russia's Volga-Ural Military District and 2nd Army, the East Regional Command said in a statement. "The exercise is testing the readiness and ability of the command services of the East Regional Command to carry out functional tasks of controlling troops and the readiness and ability of troops to carry out their combat tasks. The objective of the exercise is to achieve harmonious performance on the part of the command of a joint armed forces group in organizing a special military operation, to test how well-trained they are, to organize interaction between the command services of the armed forces of Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation, to raise the standards of the tactical and field training of military personnel, and to develop necessary combat skills and psychological qualities in the trainees," the statement said. East Regional Command chief Nikolai Pospelov is coordinating the exercise, which finishes on Wednesday. (Interfax-AVN)

 

Kazakhstan's KazMunayGas starts syndicating $2.5-bln loan

10 June

Kazakh national oil and gas company KazMunayGas(KMG) on Monday began syndicating a three-year loan for $2.5 billion at Libor + 1.55%, a source in banking circles told Interfax. The loan is to be repaid in two years. The bookrunners of the loan are Credit Suisse and ABN AMRO, while the organizers are Barclays, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi, Societe Generale, SMBC, WestLB and Deutsche Bank. KMG will use the funds to refinance a $3.1-billion syndicated loan it received in early 2008 for the purchase of Romania's Rompetrol. It was reported in January that KMG concluded a deal to raise a one-year $3.1-billion syndicated loan at Libor + 0.9%. In August 2007, KMG announced the signing of an agreement with Rompetrol Holding SA on the purchase of a 75% stake in The Rompetrol Group N.V. (TRG) based on a valuation of $3.616 billion. Rompetrol Holding will retain a 25% stake. (Interfax AFI)

 

Afghanistan airstrikes leave 31 dead 11 June Officials says 31 people died in airstrikes in eastern Afghanistan.Interior Ministry spokesman Zemeri Bashary says most of the 31 people were foreign fighters. But Khalid Farooqi, a lawmaker from Paktika, says at least nine civilians were killed.The U.S.-led coalition says four civilians were killed and that several militants died in the clashes in northern Paktika province early Wednesday. Twelve militants were detained. Farooqi says the operation apparently targeted militant commander Mullah Mohammad Nabi and fighters who served under him.Civilian casualties have been a problem for the U.S.-led coalition over the years, though fewer civilian deaths have been reported so far this year than in 2007. (AP)

 

Russia beefs up military presence in Kyrgyzstan 11 June Russia will deploy more personnel and equipment at its air base in Kyrgyzstan, the Air Force commander told a Russian daily on Wednesday. In an interview with the Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper, Col. Gen. Alexander Zelin also said that flight training programs would be intensified to prepare more pilots. He earlier said the base was set to receive four combat trainers from the Krasnodar military pilot school, plus an An-26 transport plane and several new Su-27 aircraft. The Russian base in Kant, about 20 miles west of the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, was established in October 2003, and currently deploys about 400 troops, including 250 officers and NCOs and 150 conscripts, as well as several Su-25 Frogfoot attack aircraft and Su-27 Flanker fighters, two Mi-8. The 2003 bilateral agreement between Russia and Kyrgyzstan stipulates the presence of the Kant air base in the Central Asian republic for 15 years with an automatic extension every five years after the expiration of the original term. The agreement is in the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organization - a regional security bloc in Central Asia, which also includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Kyrgyz Defense Minister Ismail Isakov said in March that Russia annually pays some $4.5 million to Kyrgyzstan for military bases and also provides Bishkek with military and technical equipment as part of the lease agreements. (RIA Novosti)

 

Writer Chingiz Aitmatov to be buried near father's grave June 14 11 June The body of writer Chingiz Aitmatov will be flown to Bishkek from Germany on June 12, an official from the state commission for funeral arrangements told Itar-Tass on Wednesday. A civil funeral will take place at the National Philharmonic Hall on June 14, following which Aitmatov will be buried at the Ata-Beiit memorial complex near the village of Chon-Tash. Near this village, located 20 kilometers south of Bishkek, a mass grave of Kyrgyzstan's public figures - executed by firing squads in the 1930s -- was found 15 years ago. Aitmatov's father Torekul Aitmatov was among the victims. The commission for funeral arrangements is headed by state secretary Nur Uulu Dosbol. Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev announced June 14 a day of mourning. Aitmatov died in hospital in the German town of Nuremberg on Tuesday. He was hospitalized to an IT ward of a Kazan hospital with renal insufficiency and septic shock on May 16. The writer was taking part in the shooting of a documentary in Tatarstan’s capital to mark his upcoming 80th birthday in December. On May 19, Aitmatov's relatives decided to send the writer for treatment to Nuremberg. Kyrgyzstan announced the year 2008 a year of Aitmatov. In Turkey, a committee was set up to nominate him for Nobel Prize in literature. The death of the famous Kyrgyz writer is a great loss not only for the Turkic countries, but also the whole world, Turkish President Abdullah Gul stated on Wednesday. Chingiz Aitmatov's works serve the development and mutual exchange of cultures in the Turkic world. "His outstanding unforgettable works will live on and remain in our hearts. His work as one of the most important persons in the world of literature and his contribution to our epoch will always be remembered warmly and with respect," Gul noted. Kyrgyz Ambassador to Russia Raimkul Attakurov said a book of condolences would be opened at the Kyrgyz Embassy starting June 12. "The book of condolences will be open for three days," Attakurov said. The Embassy said it would assist all those wishing to attend Aitmatov's funeral. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin have expressed condolences on the death of Chingiz Aitmatov. (Itar-Tass)
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