Russia sends paratroopers to its airbase in Kyrgyzstan - General Staff
PRAGUE, April 8 (RIA Novosti) - Russia has sent some 150 paratroopers to its Kant airbase in the ex-Soviet Central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan to ensure the safety of families of Russian military staff, the General Staff chief Nikolay Makarov said.
"The president has decided to send two companies of paratroopers there and some 150 people have arrived in Kant," Makarov, who is with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Prague for the signing of a new arms cut deal, said.
Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev has fled capital Bishkek for southern Kyrgyzstan, his powerbase, amid violent protests by opposition in which 74 people were killed and over 500 injured.
A new provisional government led by former foreign minister, Roza Otunbayeva, said it now controlled the situation in four out of seven regions. But Otunbayeva also said Bakiyev was trying to rally his supporters and organize his comeback.
In a clear gesture of support for the new government, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin earlier on Thursday spoke on the phone with Otunbayeva, who asked Moscow for economic assistance. Putin said Russia was ready to offer humanitarian aid.
Russia is the leading political and economic partner of Kyrgyzstan and jealously watches for any efforts by the West to establish its influence in the country. Along with Russia, the United States has a military base in Kyrgyzstan.
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