Kyrgyzstan warns US over Manas base

Here’s a clue as to the political scorecard in Kyrgyzstan. From Turkey’s Zaman, April 20:

The United States was asked to evacuate its military base in Uzbekistan last year and now it has been delivered a “note over its base” in Kyrgyzstan.

If no agreement is reached by June 1, Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev warned, the US base in Kyrgyzstan might be shut down.

Bakiyev, during a television broadcast, asked the Washington administration to pay more rent for the base as requested by the Kyrgyz government.

Some “foreign forces” are trying to create unrest in the country, Bakiyev also claimed.

The US has a thousand troops stationed at the Bishkek’s Manas Base, which they use for operations in Afghanistan.

The Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry warned yesterday that foreign mission chiefs, including the US ambassador in Kyrgyzstan, cannot interfere in the internal affairs of Bishkek.

Given that tidbit, this evidence of a tilt to Moscow is perfectly predictable. From Russia’s RIA-Novosti, April 20:

BISHKEK – Russian and Kyrgyz experts will examine collaboration options between Russian companies and a uranium-processing facility in Kyrgyzstan, Russia’s top nuclear energy official said Thursday.

Sergei Kiriyenko, who heads the Russian Federal Agency for Nuclear Power, said cooperation between Russian firm and the Kyrgyz Kara-Baltinsky Mining Combine should be economically effective if it is to be long-term.

An earlier plan to restore the Kyrgyz uranium processing facility had included Russia, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan, he said.

Under the plan, uranium ore was to be processed at the large Zarechny deposit in Southern Kazakhstan and then reprocessed at the Kara-Baltinsky Mining Combine in Kyrgyzstan before being shipped to Russia.

Since the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the Kara-Baltinsky combine, a leading uranium concentrate producer in the Soviet era with capacity of up to 2,000 tons of uranium ore a year, has been sitting idle. During the Soviet era, Kyrgyzstan had substantial uranium production facilities, which were subsequently mothballed.

Most of the nuclear power infrastructure of the former Ministry of Medium Machine Building – the ministry that handled the Soviet nuclear program – fell to Russian hands after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, but some facilities are located in other former Soviet states. Uranium is mined in Kazakhstan, while Ukraine produces turbines.

So will there be another revolution in Kyrgyzstan before June 1? Who wants to lay odds?

See our last post on Kyrgyzstan and the Great Game for Central Asia.