Uzbekistan has rented Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov’s private jet for President Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s overseas trips, Uzbekistan’s state airline said on October 14.
Usmanov, an ethnic-Uzbek, has close ties to the Tashkent government. Mirziyoyev’s decision to fly in Usmanov’s private jet breaks from the tradition of the Uzbek president using state-owned aircraft. Opposition sources suggested in September that figures in Uzbekistan’s state security services (SNB), had “sabotaged” planes ahead of Mirziyoyev’s flights in order to threaten him over his decisions to weaken their grip in Uzbekistan’s business sphere. There was even speculation in September that Mirziyoyev escaped an assassination attempt while in Kyrgyzstan.
The allegations are supposedly part of a power struggle as Mirziyoyev has been removing SNB representatives from positions of power. One of his moves, the lifting of strict currency controls, is said to have impacted adversely on SNB figures who controlled the previous currency black market.
In September, Mirziyoyev appeared to have used Usmanov’s Airbus to attend the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
So far in October, plane-tracking website Flightradar24 shows Usmanov’s plane has flown between Tashkent and Russia’s Black Sea resort city Sochi on dates when Mirziyoyev attended a meeting of ex-Soviet leaders in the Russian city.
Uzbekistan Airways has been renting the jet for Mirziyoyev and said it was paying market prices for renting the jet, though the company did not disclose any figures.
Usmanov is a major shareholder in Arsenal football club in the UK.
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