MOSCOW, November 26 (RIA Novosti) – Russian defense officials denied Tuesday that they plan to deploy strategic bombers at an air base in Kyrgyzstan, addressing speculation over what military analysts had seen as an effort by Moscow to project its geopolitical influence across the region.
Some media outlets had speculated that a Russian air base in Kant, some 20 kilometers (12 miles) outside the capital Bishkek, could be used as a forward airfield for refueling and emergency maintenance of Russian Tu-95MS strategic bombers.
A pair of Tu-95 bombers flew over the airfield in Kant on October 27 as part of celebrations marking the 10th anniversary of the base.
“Those bombers were taking part in the aerial parade … They simply flew over the Kant air base without landing,” said Yaroslav Roshchupkin, a spokesman for Russia’s Central Military District.
“There are no plans whatsoever to place Tu-95 aircraft at the Kant base,” Roshchupkin said.
The Kant air base operates in the interests of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a regional security body.
The air base was established in October 2003, and currently hosts about 400 service personnel, as well as several Su-25 Frogfoot attack aircraft, two Mi-8 combat transport helicopters and several L-39 combat trainers.
Viktor Sevostyanov, commander of the air force and air defense units of the Central Military District, was quoted by Russian media as saying in October that the number of combat aircraft at the base would almost double by the end of the year. Work on the enlargement of an airstrip at the base to accommodate heavy transport planes is ongoing.
Moscow and Bishkek signed an agreement in September last year to extend the use of the Kant air base and other Russian military facilities in Kyrgyzstan until at least 2032, with possible five-year extensions.