A high-powered team of the Russia-led defence bloc of former Soviet states is heading for violence-torn Kyrgyzstan even as a senior Russian official called for setting up a second Russian military base in the region.
A delegation of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) led by its Secretary-General Nikolai Bordyuzha will be going to Kyrgyzstan on Friday to assess the situation in the country's south following four days of bloody inter-ethnic riots last week.
The CSTO press service said that following its fact-finding mission the delegation will draw up proposals on additional measures to help Kyrgyzstan's law enforcement agencies “end unrest and curb extremist activities.”
In the wake of the Kyrgyz riots CSTO promised to supply helicopters and other hardware, but declined to send peacekeepers requested by Kyrgyzstan's interim government.
The CSTO delegation will be visiting Kyrgyzstan against the backdrop of a proposal by Russia's anti-narcotics chief to build a military base in Kyrgyzstan as part of global efforts to combat Afghan drug trafficking.
“My proposal is to set up a Russian military base on the territory of Kyrgyzstan. In my opinion, this will allow effective work towards cutting of drug channels in this country,” said Director of Russia's Federal Service for the Control of Narcotics Viktor Ivanov.
Russia already has an airbase in the northern Kyrgyz town of Kant, 20 km from the capital, Bishkek, where the U.S. also has a base running supplies for NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Mr. Ivanov said drug barons from the Islamic Movement of Afghanistan had been involved last week's clashes between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in the south, which claimed at estimated 2,000 lives and displaced up to one million people.
A leading Russian daily on Thursday quoted sources in the Russian General Staff as saying that the unrest in Kyrgyzstan led the Russian military to brush the dust off last year's plans to set up a second Russian military basis in the south of Kyrgyzstan to combat drug-trafficking and Islamist threat from Afghanistan.
Kyrgyzstan's State Security Service said that terrorists from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and Islamic Jihad Alliance based in Pakistan had taken part in the Kyrgyz riots. The security service said the Islamists had been paid by relatives of ousted Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev to stir up unrest in the south of Kyrgyzstan.