Kyrgyzstan: Terror Scares Threaten Visa-Free Travel Regime

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A steady drumbeat of terror threats in Kyrgyzstan is spurring talk about scrapping the country’s Westerner-friendly visa policy.

Senior officials have expressed divergent public positions on the issue — a hint of infighting behind the scenes — and some of the statements have a vividly Kremlin-tinged flavor.

Kyrgyzstan in 2012 waived visa requirements for citizens of more than 40 economically developed countries for a period of 60 days. The move augured greater openness to the outside world and was hailed as an enlightened step in a region where stringent travel restrictions tend to stymie income from tourism.

A coterie of officials from various branches of the Kyrgyz government now contends that the relaxed rules endanger the country’s security. Geopolitics is further poisoning the mood and there have been some enthusiastic calls for restrictions to be imposed on citizens from Turkey — the new foe of Bishkek’s closest ally, Russia.

Concrete evidence of imminent security threats is scant.

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