LONDON, April 12 (Reuters) - Following last week’s uprising in Kyrgyzstan, the main questions are whether violence continues and how the United States, Russia and China react to turmoil in a country where all have interests.
The United States leases the Manas airbase to support NATO troops in Afghanistan. Russia also leases a base, while China has a long border with Kyrgyzstan and will be concerned for the growing number of Chinese residents and businesses there.
Domestic strains appear to be the main reason for the uprising, but the new self-proclaimed government has signalled that the event was Russian-backed. A Russian official has said Moscow alone should have a base in Kyrgyzstan.
(For an overview of stories, see [nLDE6360UW] )
VIOLENCE OR STABILISATION?
After around 80 people were killed in the uprising that forced President Kurmanbek Bakiyev to flee to his southern stronghold, an uneasy calm has returned to the capital Bishkek. [ID:nLDE63807V].
The new leadership, led by former opposition leader Roza Otunbayeva, looks to be in control of the security forces, some of whom fired on opposition demonstrators on Wednesday.
The self-proclaimed government says Bakiyev’s supporters are stoking violence in the capital and are not preparing to surrender, but says it will not allow a civil war.
It offered Bakiyev safe passage abroad should he resign but on Monday said it was planning a special operation against him after he warned that any attempt to seize him would lead to bloodshed. [ID:nLDE63807V] [ID:nLDE683025]
What to watch:
-- Does the self-proclaimed government move against Bakiyev? Does he have sufficient support to attack in Bishkek or control areas in the south where he has his power base and will hold rallies this week? Do outside powers continue to recognise him as the president, or quietly abandon him?
-- What happens with the security forces? So far, they look to have switched loyalty to the new leadership. Is this the case across the country, particularly in the south? What happens to commanders involved in shooting opposition demonstrators?
-- Does looting continue and is it put down? Does it develop an ethnic overtone and target Chinese businesses in the capital, as some previous violence has? If so, how would China react?
The United States and Russia are at loggerheads, although neither publicly acknowledges this.
Washington’s priority will be keeping its Manas base open while a Russian official with Medvedev’s delegation said on Thursday Moscow wanted it closed. [ID:nN08193339]
A senior White House adviser on Russia told reporters in Prague: “This is not some anti-American coup. That we know for sure, and this is not a sponsored-by-the-Russians coup.”
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has denied Russia played a part in the turmoil, but a Kyrgyz opposition leader, Omurbek Takebayev, said: “Russia played its role in ousting Bakiyev.”
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke to the head of the self-proclaimed government on Saturday, but so far Russia is the only country to recognise it officially. [ID:nN10143896]
What to watch:
-- How overt is Russian support for the self-proclaimed government, not to mention pressure to close the base? The interim government says Russia has pledged financial aid and that a delegation will travel to Moscow this week for further talks. Does Russia offer military support? It said on Thursday it had sent paratroopers, but only to protect Russian interests.
-- Does the uprising worsen broader Russia-U.S. relations just as Washington hoped they were improving?
-- Do other countries -- particularly the United States and China -- ultimately recognise the self-proclaimed government or continue to support the ousted leadership?
-- How does China react? Analysts say it had lent money to the ousted government. Does it shift to the new rulers, perhaps sweetening relations with a new loan, or support Bakiyev tacitly or overtly? Does it make any comment on the U.S. base?
The United States has cut back flights through Manas, which officials it has been central to the war effort in Afghanistan, allowing round-the-clock combat airlift, airdrop, medical evacuation and areal refuelling. [ID:nLDE63900R]
It will be important for sending 30,000 more troops to fight the Taliban but Pentagon officials say they have other options and the base is not in itself essential.
U.S. officials say only around 20 percent of their supplies into Afghanistan go by air, with 30 percent transported overland through former Soviet states and 50 percent by road through Pakistan, a route which is vulnerable to attack on the Afghan and Pakistani side of the border.
What to watch:
-- What happens to the base? Do the new rulers demand a renegotiation or shortening of the lease, or outright immediate U.S. departure, which might complicate NATO’s plans to escalate operations over the Afghan summer? In the meantime, it is able to operate fully?
-- Does the U.S. begin other options? The U.S. military say it is premature to discuss what they would do if they lost Manas. They have overflight and some landing rights in other central Asian states, but analysts say finding a new hub would be hard. On the other hand, a U.S. base would probably give a financial windfall to any central Asian country that offered it.
-- Does the dispute prompt Washington to rethink its strategy of relying heavily on transport through the Russian sphere of influence?
See also: High stakes for US base [ID:nN08193339]
Russia eyes U.S. airbase in Kyrgyz turmoil [ID:nLDE6308W7]
Factbox on the Manas base [ID:nLDE63720O]
ECONOMY AND INVESTMENT
Kyrgyzstan’s economic problems are seen as a big factor in the uprising. Recent energy tariff increases have been unpopular and many people are angry about alleged government corruption and recent privatisation deals. The self-proclaimed government says it badly needs financial aid.
As much as 40 percent of gross domestic product is estimated to come from remittances from Kyrgyz workers in Russia, Russia’s Uralsib says.
Foreign investors are mainly Russian and Chinese, with little Western interest outside the small gold mining sector. Canadian mining company Centerra Gold CG.TO and London-listed Chaarat Gold Holdings Ltd CGH.L, both of which operate in the country, have seen their shares fall during the crisis.
Kyrgyzstan has no significant oil and gas reserves, although Russia's Gazprom GAZP.MM is involved in exploration.
What to watch:
-- How long does the crisis last? Analysts say there is already little Western interest in investing, but that buying insurance at present would probably be impossible, potentially prompting delays in any planned ventures.
-- Does Russia or someone else provide financial aid, or does the U.S. agree to pay more for its base?
-- Most analysts say the uprising does not mean other central Asian states are less stable, but might investors view events as a sign of heightened regional risk and charge higher premiums for investing in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and elsewhere? (Editing by Kevin Liffey)
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