Russia ups presence at Kyrgyzstan base
By STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 22, 2009
Russia has announced plans to increase the number of aircraft at its air base in Kyrgyzstan, adding to the number of troops it has there while the United States begins a pullout from its own air base in the country.
The Collective Security Treaty Organization — often described as the Russian-led equivalent of NATO — made the announcement Monday, according to wire reports. No specific numbers were mentioned, but in the past, Russia has said it has around 500 servicemembers and only a few aircraft at its base in Kant.
Increasing the Russian force at the base, even nominally, is seen as a symbolic move as the United States shuts down its Manas air base, which was ordered closed by the Kyrgyz parliament and president in February. The U.S. military, which has said it still believes negotiations to keep the base open are possible, had six months from the decision to shut down the base. Manas has been the major air hub for U.S. troops and supplies heading in and out of Afghanistan.
Kyrgyz officials closed the base shortly after Russia promised more than $2 billion in aid and loans to the country, which is a former Soviet republic.
Russian officials have denied a role in Kyrgyzstan’s decision to shut the U.S. base.