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Russia to Construct Small Nuclear Power Plant in Uzbekistan, Signaling New Era in Bilateral Relations

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In a historic announcement, Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev revealed that Russia is set to build a small-scale nuclear power plant in Uzbekistan, marking the first such endeavour in post-Soviet Central Asia. The announcement came as President Mirziyoyev hosted a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, during which the two leaders discussed significant bilateral collaborations.

President Putin pledged a substantial investment of $400 million into a joint investment fund totaling $500 million to support various projects in Uzbekistan, underscoring Russia’s commitment to bolstering economic ties with its Central Asian neighbor.

This milestone initiative signifies a significant shift in the energy dynamics of the region, with Uzbekistan expressing interest in procuring additional oil and gas supplies from Russia, a departure from the long-standing practice of Moscow importing hydrocarbons from Central Asia.

Describing Putin’s visit as “historic,” President Mirziyoyev emphasized that it signals the dawn of a new era in the comprehensive strategic partnership and alliance between the two countries. President Putin reciprocated by affirming Tashkent’s status as a “strategic partner and reliable ally” of Russia.

According to documents released by the Kremlin, the Russian state nuclear corporation, Rosatom, will undertake the construction of up to six nuclear reactors with a capacity of 55 megawatts each in Uzbekistan. This represents a smaller-scale project compared to the 2.4-gigawatt initiative agreed upon in 2018, which is yet to be finalized. If realized, this agreement will showcase Russia’s capability to export not only energy but also advanced technological products to emerging Asian markets amid increasing pressure from the West through sanctions.

Notably, none of the five former Soviet Central Asian republics currently operate nuclear power plants. However, both Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, as significant uranium producers, have long advocated for the necessity of nuclear energy to sustain their growing economies.

Furthermore, President Putin revealed plans for a substantial increase in gas deliveries to Uzbekistan, addressing the country’s energy needs. Despite being a substantial gas producer, Uzbekistan has faced challenges in meeting domestic demand, and the augmentation of Russian gas supplies has been instrumental in averting an energy crisis.

In addition to energy cooperation, the two leaders affirmed ongoing collaboration in the mining, metals, and chemicals sectors, reflecting the depth of the multifaceted partnership between the two nations. Uzbekistan, heavily reliant on remittances from migrant labourers in Russia, has maintained close ties with Moscow despite the geopolitical tensions arising from Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine.

While the region continues to engage with the West on initiatives such as alternative cargo shipping routes, the burgeoning collaboration between Russia and Uzbekistan underscores the evolving geopolitical landscape in Central Asia.

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