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Russian hydroelectric project strengthens bond with Kyrgyzstan

A project to build four hydroelectric power stations will extend the Kremlin's footprint in Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyz officials welcome the investment, which could boost their economy.

By Olga DzyubenkoReuters / October 27, 2012

Men fish as a barge is transported in a shiplift at the Krasnoyarsk hydroelectric power station and dam, about 28 miles south of the city of Krasnoyarsk September 22. Russia is investing in four hydroelectric power stations in Kyrgyzstan.

Ilya Naymushin/Reuters

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Tash Bashat, Kyrgystan

Kyrgyzstan's leader welcomed growing Russian investment in his impoverished nation on Saturday in a ceremony to kick off the construction of four Russian-built hydroelectric power stations.

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The power project extends the Kremlin's footprint in the volatile fringes of the former Soviet Union, following Russia's agreement to write off nearly $500 million in Kyrgyz debts.

Russian state-controlled hydroelectric power producer RusHydro will build the four plants by 2016. The deal was agreed in September after Kyrgyzstan extended a lease on a Russian military base and confirmed plans to close a U.S. military base used to fly troops in and out of Afghanistan.

"Today we witness a historic event in the upper reaches of the Naryn River -- for the first time since the fall of the great Soviet Union, we lay the foundation not of just a single hydropower plant, but of an entire cascade of stations," Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev said at a ground-breaking ceremony.

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