Like a good guest, Russian leader Vladimir Putin arrived in Kyrgyzstan on March 28 bearing gifts.
As soon as Putin flew into Bishkek, local media reported that Moscow had given Kyrgyzstan $30 million in the form of a grant.
The money is to be used to cover budgetary expenses, to pay for military salaries and social benefits, according to the bilateral grant agreement. Bishkek will, however, have to provide a routine breakdown of how it is spending the money.
Dollar figures have been thrown about with abandon ahead of Putin’s state visit — all with a view to underlining the importance of the cordial state of relations between Russia and Kyrgyzstan.
On the eve of Putin’s arrival, at a Kyrgyz-Russian interregional conference, private sector players from the two countries signed 12 agreements on cooperation in the agricultural sector worth $350 million altogether and Kyrgyz exporters landed nine delivery contracts worth a total of $67.5 million.
At the same conference, representatives from Russian state geological company Rosgeologia signed a deal with the Kyrgyz state committee for industry, energy and mineral resources on investing $1.2 billion into the exploration of mineral resources in Kyrgyzstan.
Kyrgyz deputy Prime Minister Zamirbek Askarov talked up his country’s hydropower potential, which he estimated at 142 billion kilowatt hours. Only 10 percent of that theoretical capacity is being exploited at the moment, he said ruefully.
“On the Naryn River alone we could build 33 hydropower plants for a total capacity of 6,450 megawatts,” Askarov said.
An additional 30 bilateral deals were to be signed during Putin’s stay.
The exuberance elicited by this week of events appears to be leaving few sectors untouched.
Maxim Novikov, general director of Moscow-based Russian Venture Investments, or RVI, spoke glowingly about how meat exports from Kyrgyzstan to Russia would soon be on the rise.
“We had certain barriers, there were bans, but in February 2019 these were lifted. We will build on the deliveries of beef,” Novikov said. “We will begin with small consignments. But there is potential for around 15 tons of meat.”
Novikov did not mention a timeframe for that volume, although it is presumed it was an annual projection.
Enthusiasm for cultural ties has been no less pronounced. Kyrgyz President Sooronbai Jeenbekov made what feels like a symbolically important gesture by declaring that the Russian language has, and will retain, official status in his country.
Jeenbekov went further by calling for greater cooperation in education and research. This theme was the object of its own event in Bishkek on March 27 — the Forum of Rectors of Kyrgyzstan and Russia. A resolution adopted by the forum emphasized what they said was the need for the “close integration of higher education programs in the two countries.”
Russian educational partners are apparently chomping at the bit to help make this happen.
Viktor Sadovnichiy, rector of Moscow State University and president of the Russian Union of Rectors, reportedly expressed exasperation at the fact that his university had still not established a branch in Kyrgyzstan.
“Six times already I was prepared to begin cooperation. I even got my ticket to Bishkek. But nothing came of it, and it was not Moscow that was to blame. Colleagues, work this out between yourselves, we are ready to do anything that is need. I again give my approval. This is the seventh time,” Sadovnichiy was quoted as saying by Kaktus news website.
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