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Russia, Allies to Aid U.S. in Afghanistan

Published: February 6, 2009 (Issue # 1446)


Russia and four former Soviet republics offered to help the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan on Thursday even as one, Kyrgyzstan, moved forward on a decision to cut off American access to an air base used for war supplies.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said the five countries, including the Central Asian nations of Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, are ready for full-fledged and comprehensive cooperation with NATO forces in the region. He spoke on state broadcaster Vesti-24 today.

At the same time, Kyrgyz Security Council Secretary Adukhan Madumarov said on the same channel that the U.S. air base at Manas airport near Bishkek must cease operations within 180 days. The base would be crucial to President Barack Obamas plans for a buildup of troops to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The Kyrgyz Parliament will likely vote Feb. 6 on legislation formally renouncing the agreement allowing U.S. operations at the base, the Interfax news agency reported from Bishkek.

Andranik Migranyan, a Russian institute director with ties to senior officials in Moscow, said Russian cooperation on Afghanistan may be linked to progress on resolving differences over issues such as missile defense and NATO expansion.

I am absolutely sure the Russian side is going to cooperate, said Migranyan, director of the New York-based Institute for Democracy and Cooperation, in an interview. But Russia needs some security guarantees. Not guarantees about dominance, but about its own security.

Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev disclosed the move to close the base in Moscow on Wednesday after receiving a Russian pledge for more than $2 billion in economic assistance.

The U.S. hasnt received any notification from Kyrgyz officials about a base closure and still hopes to negotiate a way to preserve American access, spokesmen for the State and Defense departments said. Were having discussions with the Kyrgyz about this and well continue to do so, said State Department spokesman Robert Wood.

There may be basis for the hope of keeping the base accessible to the U.S., said an expert on the region, Stephen Larrabee of the RAND Corp. policy research organization in Arlington, Virginia.

It is not clear if this is a final and formal decision or whether theyre playing hardball to try to get more money out of the United States, said Larrabee, who is head of European security at RAND. Its just not clear whether the game is over.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Thursday, Aug. 28


Learn more about the citys upcoming municipal elections during the presentation of the project Road Map for the Municipal Elections being presented this evening in the conference hall on the third floor of Biblioteka at 21 Nevsky Prospekt. Steve Kaddins, a coordinator for Beautiful St. Petersburg, which gives residents an online forum to lodge complaints about infrastructure problems in the city, will be on hand to answer any questions. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. and is open to all.



Friday, Aug. 29


Park Pobedy will feature the sights and sounds of the world outside of Russia during the Open Art International Festival today. Taste foreign cuisine, learn how to make tea like the Chinese or relax in a hammock during the free event. Although entrance is free, you must register beforehand if you wish to attend.



Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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