Russia and Uzbekistan have reached an agreement for the construction of the first nuclear power plant in the Central Asian country.

The development occurred as Russia’s President Vladimir Putin visited Uzbekistan for talks with the country’s leader, Shavkat Mirziyoyev.

The agreement signifies Russia’s capacity to export high-tech energy solutions to Asian markets amidst increasing Western sanctions.

The Kremlin released documents stating that Russian state nuclear company Rosatom will construct six reactors in Uzbekistan, each with 55MW, providing 330MW of capacity in total.

The initiative is smaller in scale than the 2.4GW project agreed in 2018, which is yet to be finalised.

President Putin announced a Russian investment of $400m into a joint fund with Uzbekistan. The fund totals $500m and will finance projects within the country.

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President Mirziyoyev expressed Uzbekistan’s interest in increasing oil and gas imports from Russia, marking a shift from previous decades where the flow was predominantly from Central Asia to Moscow.

Mirziyoyev described the visit by Putin as historic.

Reuters quoted Mirziyoyev: “It heralds the beginning of a new age in the comprehensive strategic partnership and alliance relations between our countries.”

Putin described Tashkent as a “strategic partner and reliable ally of Moscow”.

None of the five former Soviet Central Asian republics host a nuclear power plant, despite Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan – both uranium producers – expressing the need for nuclear energy to support their growing economies.

Kazakhstan’s nuclear project is pending a national referendum yet to be scheduled.

Mirziyoyev continued: “Nearly all the leading countries of the world ensure their energy security and sustainable development with the help of nuclear energy.”

Meanwhile, Uzbekistan has begun importing Russian natural gas through a pipeline previously used for exporting gas to Russia, a strategic move in light of Russia’s pivot to Asian markets following tensions with the West over Ukraine.

Despite producing 50 billion cubic metres of gas annually, Uzbekistan faces challenges in satisfying domestic energy demand and Russian gas imports have been crucial in preventing an energy shortfall.

Putin stated: “(Gas) exports are running well ahead of schedule and we are ready to increase their volume if needed.”

Mirziyoyev also indicated a desire to increase Russian oil imports. The two nations are collaborating on mining, metals and chemical projects.