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    Russian-Kyrgyz joint antiterrorism exercises enter active phase

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    The active phase of Russian-Kyrgyz antiterrorism exercises started Thursday at a practice range in southern Kyrgyzstan.

    OSH (Kyrgyzstan), October 5 (RIA Novosti) - The active phase of Russian-Kyrgyz antiterrorism exercises started Thursday at a practice range in southern Kyrgyzstan.

    The main aim of the South-2006 exercises, which began on October 2, is to plan and practice the coordination of combat units in a joint antiterrorism operation, and to improve the combat skills of military personnel during operations in mountainous areas, the Kyrgyz Defense Ministry said.

    About 350 servicemen from special forces units, combat vehicles, artillery, Su-25 Frogfoot ground support aircraft and Mi-8 Hip multipurpose helicopters are participating in the active phase of the maneuvers, which include the firing of live ammunition at the Osh practice range.

    Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, who is currently on a visit to the Central Asian state, Kyrgyzstan Prime Minister Felix Kulov and Defense Minister Ismail Isakov are attending the exercises.

    Russia and Kyrgyzstan are both members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a post-Soviet security grouping that also includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan. They are also in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a regional security body in Central Asia that includes China, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan.

    The Kyrgyz defense minister said the CSTO was an openly military-political organization. "The CSTO was set up so that [members] can help each other in action rather than on paper to eliminate military or terrorist threats," he said.

    Russia established an airbase in Kant, about 20 miles west of the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, in October 2003 to enable Russian combat aircraft to provide close air support for the ground units of CSTO member states.

    Ivanov praised Wednesday military cooperation with Kyrgyzstan and said Russia would continue to develop the Kant base.

    The defense minister also said Russia was ready to provide military-technical assistance to all its allies, but did not want to impose it. So far, Russia has provided military equipment worth 15 million rubles ($555,000) to Kyrgyzstan as part of their military cooperation agreements.

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