Russia's Putin reaffirms ties with Armenia, reportedly seeking to open new military bases in ally nation

Visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin reaffirmed Moscow's close ties with key regional ally Armenia in talks Friday with his Armenian counterpart, Robert Kocharian.

Putin said he hoped his two-day visit to Yerevan would lay the groundwork for further strengthening the two nations' relations.

"We have a good basis for economic cooperation and the development of relations in the political sphere," the Russian leader said in televised remarks.

"The ties between our two countries and peoples have long been very stable," Putin said.

Armenia, an impoverished, landlocked Caucasus state, is one of Moscow's closest allies on its southern flank, and Russian maintains a military base there.

The alliance with Armenia _ one of the six countries in an ex-Soviet military pact led by Moscow _ has taken on added importance since neighboring Georgia began leaning toward the West after the 2003 "Rose Revolution" brought liberal reformers to power.

In an article headlined "Putin tries to hang onto last ally," the Russian daily Kommersant reported that the Russian leader was seeking agreement to open new military bases in Armenia because of the forced withdrawal of Russian bases in Georgia.

Putin's visit came a day after massive opposition protests in the Central Asian state of Kyrgyzstan, where protesters ousted long-serving ruler Askar Akayev in the third popular revolution in an ex-Soviet republic within the last year and a half.

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