Turmoil in Kyrgyzstan
Unrest in the Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan may endanger a US military base key to operations in Afghanistan.
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The remote Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan is the only country is in the world with Russian and US military bases, and right now both major powers are closely watching the events unfolding in that country. Last week, Kyrgyzstan’s president was forced to flee, while dozens were killed by security forces as the opposition government assumed power.
Kyrgyzstan's ousted President, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, in recent interviews still laid claim to the country's presidency, while Roza Otunbayeva, a former foreign minister and ambassador to the US and Britain, has assumed power with support of security forces.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has recognized Kyrgyzstan’s new self-proclaimed government. He denied Russia had any role in the unrest.
The US operates a military base in Kyrgyzstan critical to its operations in Afghanistan. Ousted President Bakiyev claims the new opposition government will close the base.
"Manas base is incredibly important for US operations in Afghanistan," said the BBC’s Rayhan Demytrie, in Kyrgyzstan's capital city of Bishkek. "The majority of US and NATO troops go to Afghanistan via this base ... which is less than a two-hour flight away."
Demytrie says Bakiyev considered closing the base last year, after Russia offered Kyrgyzstan two billion dollars in aid. The US was able to extend its lease for another year when it increased its rent from $17 million to $60 million.
Opposition leader Roza Otunbayeva, when asked about the base, said she was not against having US military presence in the country. But according to the BBC, Omurbek Tekebayev, another opposition leader, said there was a "high probability that the duration of the US air base's presence in Kyrgyzstan will be shortened."
Washington has played down concerns over the future of the base.
"There's definitely more to come on Russia's role," says Demytrie. "Whether Russia did play any role in this protest, and what role is it going to play in the days to come in helping to restore order in the country."
Seventy-five people died, and over 1500 were injured in the clash between protestors and security forces in Kyrgyzstan last week.
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