Kyrgyzstan is to sell its state-owned gas company to Russia's energy monopoly Gazprom with an aim to ease the country's crippling energy crisis.
"If in the first quarter of next year Gazprom becomes the owner of Kyrgyzgas, we will have no stoppages of gas supplies," the country's President Almazbek Atambayev announced during his annual news conference on December 24. "As a citizen and president, I do not cling to Kyrgyzgas. I only need affordable, uninterrupted and inexpensive gas supplies to our towns."
In late December 2012, gas and electricity supplies to thousands of Kyrgyz households from neighboring Kazakhstan stopped due to mounting unpaid bills.
Russia, which runs a military base in Kyrgyzstan, is keen to improve the situation in the country and strengthen its economic foothold in China's mountainous neighbor.
According to Kyrgyzgaz general director Turgunbek Kulmurzayev, under Gazprom "the price for fuel will be substantially cheaper than what is paid to Kazakhstan — $224 per thousand cubic meters — or Uzbekistan — $290 per thousand cubic meters."
Russia will reportedly also explore new gas fields in Kyrgyzstan and invest $650 million over five years on modernizing the country's gas pipeline network.
The inability to fulfill Kyrgyzstan's basic energy needs led in 2010 to the violent overthrow of the country's former President, Kurmanbek Bakiyev.