US President Joe Biden’s administration is preparing economic restrictions against Kyrgyzstan, accusing the country of trying to help Russia circumvent sanctions imposed over the war in Ukraine. The latest such episode was the discovery of a cargo of Chinese drones traveling through Kazakhstan toward Russia, The Washington Post reported.
The Chinese drones, valued at $14,000 each, were declared as agricultural drones, but the Russian company that bought them in early May may have intended to use the devices for another purpose. Earlier, Russian authorities insisted that the same drones might have military value: according to Moscow’s claims, Kyiv planned to use similar models for chemical weapons.
Since the invasion of Ukraine, and especially in recent months, Kyrgyzstan has seen a surge in trade with Russia. U.S. officials suspect this is due to increased sales of sanctioned goods from China and Europe.
For example, combined exports of goods from the EU and the U.S. to Armenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan increased by $9.7 billion, or 66%, to $24.3 billion in 2022, while exports from these five countries to Russia increased by $4.8 billion, or nearly 50% over 2021, to $15 billion, The Wall Street Journal calculated based on U.N. trade data.
Kazakhstan’s imports grew the strongest – by $4.7bn; however, its exports to Russia grew much weaker – by $1.8bn. But Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan apparently shipped to Russia almost everything they bought in the West: in the first case, the inflow amounted to $0.9bn, and the outflow – $0.6bn; in the second – $1.3bn and $0.9bn, respectively.
Visits of American and European diplomats to Bishkek did not bring significant results, and now the White House is preparing new economic measures to put pressure on Kyrgyzstan. WaPo sources did not specify what kind of sanctions we are talking about. They only recalled that earlier in similar cases sanctions and blacklisting of companies were applied.
The Kyrgyz embassy in the U.S. assures that the country strictly complies with international laws and fights smuggling and other illegal trade. The embassy attributed the increase in trade with Russia to the modernization of electronic systems for tracking cross-border flows of goods. The embassy also recalled that Russia is one of Kyrgyzstan’s main trading partners, and about one million of the country’s citizens live on its territory.