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Kyrgyzstan to sell off state gas company to Gazprom

BISHKEK -- Kyrgyzstan will sell its state gas company to Russia's Gazprom early next year, to ease a crippling energy crisis, its president said on Monday.

Gas supplies to Kyrgyzstan's north via its leading supplier Kazakhstan have sputtered due to mounting unpaid bills. Tens of thousands of residents of the capital Bishkek have suffered night temperatures at minus 20 degrees Celsius (minus 4 Fahrenheit).

Russia, which like the United States runs a military air base in Kyrgyzstan, is keen to strengthen its economic foothold in the mountainous country neighboring China.

Simmering popular discontent and opposition criticism of the fledgling cabinet of Prime Minister Zhantoro Satybaldiyev pose a threat to the fragile peace in the impoverished nation of 5.5 million which has seen two presidents deposed in violent revolts since 2005.

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