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Feb6-09, 12:52 PM
Analysis: US base falls victim to Kyrgyz crisis
Kyrgyzstan may have felt it had no choice in expelling the U.S. from a base vital to the war in Afghanistan.
Months of crippling electricity shortages, soaring food prices and rampant unemployment have caused misery for much of the population. A reinvigorated opposition has threatened to stage nationwide protests against President Kurmanbek Bakiyev.
Against that backdrop, Russia pledged to help raise $1.7 billion for a much-needed hydropower plant and issue a $300 million low-interest 40-year loan repayable over a 40-year period. Moscow also agreed to give $150 million in aid and cancel an outstanding $190 million debt.
But Russia has also made clear its objections to the Manas air base, saying it was only supposed to remain for two years after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.
. . . .
Kyrgyzstan, a largely Muslim, mountainous former Soviet nation on China's western frontier, has long been viewed as a relative oasis of democracy in a region that boasts some of the world's most repressive dictatorships.
But observers believe Bakiyev, who himself came to power in 2005 as the result of a nominally pro-Western popular uprising, is on a drive to strengthen his grip on power.
New York-based democracy watchdog organization Freedom House noted in its latest country report on Kyrgyzstan that democratic rights and press freedoms have steadily worsened over the last year.
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Let's see what Bakiyev and his administration do in the near term.