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Putin visits Kyrgyzstan in first trip abroad since ICC arrest warrant

by Nate Ostiller October 12, 2023 10:28 PM 3 min read
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov attend a welcoming ceremony prior to their talks in Bishkek on Oct. 12, 2023. (Vyacheslav Oseledko/AFP via Getty Images)
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Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on Oct. 12 and met with Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov ahead of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) summit.

Ostensibly one of the more democratic countries in Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan has been one of Russia's few remaining allies in the aftermath of its war against Ukraine. It has also experienced democratic backsliding in recent years, according to Freedom House's 2023 report.

Russia has traditionally had close relations with Kyrgyzstan, and Putin used the visit as an opportunity to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the opening of the Russian Kant military airbase outside of Bishkek.

Russia and Kyrgyzstan have close economic ties as well. Putin noted that Russia is the largest investor in the Kyrgyz economy, and Japarov touted the significant growth in Kyrgyz exports to Russia in the past two years.

Many believe that this increase is in part because international companies doing business with Russia began using Kyrgyzstan as an intermediary country to bypass sanctions. In July 2023, a number of Kyrgyz companies were sanctioned for evading sanctions and helping Russia obtain drone parts and other military hardware.

Opinion: Weakness is lethal. Why Putin invaded Ukraine and how the war must end
Editor’s Note: This is an analysis by Nataliya Bugayova, Kateryna Stepanenko, and Frederick W. Kagan for the Institute for the Study of War (ISW). This analysis was originally published by the ISW on Oct. 1, 2023, and has been republished by the Kyiv Independent with permission. Russian President V…

This is the first time Putin has traveled abroad since the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant in March for him and Russia's Presidential Commissioner for Children's Rights Maria Lvova-Belova, for the forcible transfer of children from Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine.

Countries that have signed the Rome Statute are obliged to arrest Putin if he sets foot in their respective countries. However, Kyrgyzstan has not ratified the Rome Statute.

The CIS was originally formulated in 1991 as an informal successor organization for the former constituent republics of the Soviet Union. However, only Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Russia and Uzbekistan are current members.

Following the Russo-Georgian War in 2008 and Russia's initial invasion of Ukraine in 2014, Ukraine and Georgia withdrew. Moldova has also begun the process of leaving the organization.

In a sign of Armenia's rapidly declining relationship with Russia, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan is not attending the upcoming summit.

In addition to Japarov, Putin will meet with the leaders of Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

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Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in the op-ed section are those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the views of the Kyiv Independent. Russia’s annual Victory Day holiday on May 9, when the country marks the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in World War II,
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