Fri, 19 Apr 2019

Russian President Vladimir Putin has arrived in Uzbekistan for his first state visit with Tashkent's new leader, Shavkat Mirziyoev.

The last time Putin visited Central Asia's most populous republic in 2016, Uzbekistan was grappling with the death of its long-term authoritarian ruler, Islam Karimov.

During Putin's two-day visit, the two countries are expected to sign contracts worth over $20 billion, more than half of which will be for a nuclear power station built with Russian financing in western Uzbekistan.

During his two years in power, Mirziyoev has presided over some significant political and economic reforms, abandoning some of Karimov's more repressive policies, and touting a new openness to foreign investment and tourism.

While Moscow regards Uzbekistan as a potential market for Russian goods, Uzbekistan's main export to Russia has been people.

Around 2 million people from the Muslim-majority country of 32 million are estimated to be working or seeking work in Russia, and they send some of their cash earnings back home to support family members.

The high point of Putin's visit is likely to be a televised ground-laying ceremony for the nuclear power plant on October 19 with Mirziyoev.

The project is worth $11 billion and is expected to come online in 2028, according to Putin's foreign-policy aide, Yury Ushakov.

The plant will be the first of its kind in Central Asia, where attitudes toward nuclear power were influenced by the Chernobyl nuclear plant accident.

A low point in relations between Russia and Uzbekistan came in 2012, when Tashkent walked out of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a Moscow-led military bloc.

Based on reporting by AFP and TASS

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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