MOSCOW -- The Central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan began swearing in a republic national guard Monday, but battling economic woes promised to be the toughest struggle for ex-Soviet troops fending for themselves.
Kyrgyzstan followed the lead of other former Soviet republics in creating a national guard while also being faced with the same economic problems attacking the former Soviet army elsewhere.
President Askar Akayev met officers Monday from a number of units and was shown on television at the swearing in of the first battalions of soldiers into national guard units.
Red Army officers have in some cases gone without pay since April, Russian television reported, declaring that some soldiers have sold their parade uniforms to buy food.
The Kyrgyzstan army broadcast report sarcastically suggested that 'after boots -- machine guns, APCs (armored personnel carriers) and planes may be sold. Anyway, a MiG-21 is just 10 tons of metal and for a modest flat in Yekaterinburg one asks two MiGs.'
A later report said Kyrgyz soldiers' wives could be found selling their husbands' uniforms at the market. Soviet military dress is openly sold at Moscow flea markets.
The new Kyrgyz national guard battalions activated Monday included Russian, Ukrainian and Uzbek soldiers as well as Kyrgyz, the Russian state news agency Itar-Tass reported.
Many of the soldiers still stationed in Kyrgyzstan in former Soviet units will be demobilized or put into reserve units, Akayev said.
Figuring out what to do with the Soviet army has become a problem for the leaders who inherited the troops. Russia has taken reponsibility for many of the troops posted outside its boundaries, but a lack of housing and money has delayed demobilizing units or withdrawing them from countries that want them out.
Other troops, such as strategic forces and border patrols, have fallen under the joint command of the Commonwealth of Independent States.
Also on Monday, another Central Asia republic, Uzbekistan, initiated its national guard with a swearing in and training program. On Sunday, the republic of Belarus began swearing in its national guard.
Ukraine was among the first former Soviet republic to announce formation of its own army. Russia recently announced it, too, would form an army. Militias have been formed in Azerbaijan, Armenia, Moldova and Georgia -- all plagued by civil strife.