BISHKEK — During Russian President Vladimir Putin’s one-day visit to Kyrgyzstan, the sides have agreed to expand the territory of Russia’s military base in the Central Asian country by 60 hectares, or 0.6 square kilometers.
According to a protocol placed on Russia’s legal documents website, the annual rent for Russia’s air base in the northern town of Kant will be increased from $4.5 million to $4.79 million.
Rules concerning the use of drones on the territory of the base will be introduced, the document said. The document did not specify the types of drones the rules refer to.
The the chief of the Kyrgyz armed forces’ General Staff, Raiymberdi Duishenbiev, told reporters that the protocol will also allow for the modernization of runways at the military airport in Kant.
The agreement needs to be ratified by the two sides before it enters into force.
Russia’s air base in Kant was opened in 2003 under the auspices of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), which also includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan.
Kyrgyzstan is home to other Russian military facilities: a navy base on Lake Issyk-Kul, a seismology center in the southern town of Mailuu-Suu, and a communication center in the town of Chaldybar near the Kyrgyz-Kazakh border.
In 2012, all four facilities were united in one single entity called the Russian Joint Military Base.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said during a visit to Kyrgyzstan last month that Moscow was amenable to discussing the idea of opening a second military base in the Central Asian country if Bishkek was interested.
Lavrov’s statement came just three days after the Kyrgyz ambassador to Russia, Alikbek Jekshenkulov, said that Kyrgyzstan does not rule out opening a second Russian military base in the south of the country.
Reports and rumors about the possibility that Russia could open a second military base have been circulating in Kyrgyzstan and Russia for months.
A day before Putin’s visit, Bishkek police arrested a couple that staged a protest in front the Russian Embassy.
Human rights defender Rita Karasartova told RFE/RL that Nurlan Karymshakov and his wife, Gulnaz Imaeva, were arrested and charged with inciting ethnic hatred after they held posters saying, “Putin is an aggressor, a murderer, an occupant,” and “No to Putin’s torpedoes in Issyk-Kul! No to bombs!”
At the start of their meeting in Bishkek, Jeenbekov and Putin vowed to develop relations between what the two leaders called two “reliable allies and strategic partners.”
Kyrgyz Deputy Prime Minister Jenish Razakov said that 65 bilateral agreements worth of $12 billion are expected to be signed during Putin’s visit.
Putin ended his visit by laying flowers at the Eternal Fire memorial in Bishkek honoring Soviet soldiers fallen during World War II.
Russian media reports said Jeenbekov gave Putin two gifts: a horse of the Oryol Trotter breed and a dog of the Kyrgyz breed known as the Taigan.