Eurasia News Week in Review

A round-up of some of the top articles and news highlights from around the region over the last week:  

Central Asia:

  • The U.S. has agreed to leave its air base in Kyrgyzstan, media in Central Asia reported. U.S. officials declined to confirm or deny the reports. Last week, Ambassador Eric John, Senior Advisor for Security Negotiations and Agreements in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, headed a delegation to Bishkek to discuss the future of the base. Media reported that both sides agreed that the U.S. would leave the base at the end of the current agreement, in July 2014. The U.S. has operated the base, which serves as a base for refueling aircraft as well as a transit center for troops going in and out of Afghanistan, since 2001.

  • Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Defense convened a conference examining other countries’ use of air forces in urban areas. The MoD said the purpose of the event was “to analyze use of aviation in military conflicts by foreign countries and work out suggestions on training of pilots for military actions in urban areas.” Special attention was paid to use of drones in urban conflicts, the ministry said.

  • A court in Kyrgyzstan sentenced nine people to long prison terms for being members in an Islamist extremist organization. The sentenced were members of the Jaishul Mahdi (Army of the Righteous Ruler) group, a group that Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty described as “a domestic Kyrgyz organization blamed for a bombings and attempted bombings at the end of 2010 and in early 2011.” And in neighboring Tajikistan, two men were given long prison terms for being part of another extremist group, Jundullah.

  • The joint-venture between Eurocopter and Kazakhstan’s state-run defense manufacturer, Kazakhstan Engineering, displayed (in Russian) a model of its new ЕС 645 Т2 helicopter in Astana. Eurocopter Kazakhstan Engineering announced that the first models assembled in Kazakhstan would be produced in 2015, and that it has four orders for the aircraft from the country’s border service. Eurocopter Kazakhstan Engineering will market the helicopters to Russia, Belarus, the Central Asian states and Mongolia.

  • The central governments of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan intervened to settle a water dispute between farmers on both sides of the border. The episode began when farmers in Kyrgyzstan blocked a canal leading to Kazakhstan, depriving farmers on that side of the border of water. Kazakhstan’s prime minister called his Kyrgyzstani counterpart and asked him to intervene, and Kyrgyzstani police opened a case of “vigilantism” against those who blocked the canal, and opened the canal again.

The Caucasus 

  • After last week’s direct accusation against France and Germany, Azerbaijan announced that it had discovered that Greece had sold the French/German-produced anti-tank missiles to Armenia in contravention of European sanctions against the country. The Greek embassy in Baku denied the claim. Previously, France and Germany, which produce the MILAN missile in question, also had denied selling them to Armenia.

  • Azerbaijan was Russia’s fifth-largest weapons buyer last year, a Russian magazine reported. Also this week, Russia announced that its delivery of Mi-35M helicopters to Azerbaijan would be completed by the middle of next year. Azerbaijan also revealed that it had bought anti-tank missiles and armored vehicles from Ukraine last year.

Quick Hits from Central Asia and the South Caucasus:

  • A senior Chinese military official visited Kazakhstan, meeting with the country’s defense minister and visiting the country’s navy divisions at the Caspian Sea port of Aktau.

  • Tajikistan’s foreign minister spoke about the country’s long-delayed ratification of a military base agreement signed last year with Russia, saying that Dushanbe is still “thoroughly considering all its provisions.” 

  • Iran announced that it would soon launch a new naval destroyer into the Caspian Sea.

  • The U.S. and Mongolia announced that they would hold joint military exercises in Mongolia August 3-14.

  • Russia undertook its largest military exercises since the Soviet era, involving 160,000 troops, 1,000 tanks and armored vehicles, 130 planes and helicopters, and 70 ships.

  • Azerbaijan hosted joint military exercises with Turkey.

  • Georgia’s defense minister said that his country would soon work out details of cooperation with Russia on security for the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

  • Georgia will join NATO’s Rapid Response Force starting in 2015, the country’s defense minister Irakli Alasania announced.

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