By Arslan Sabyrbekov (03/18/2015 issue of the CACI Analyst)
On February 18, the body of well-known Kyrgyz crime boss Almanbet Anapiyaev was found in a car in Minsk, Belarus, where the country’s former ruling Bakiev clan fled after the 2010 uprising in Kyrgyzstan.
Anapiyaev showed up on Interpol’s wanted list as a leader of organized crime in 2011. The Kyrgyz Ministry of Interior has accused him of a number of crimes of varying severity, ranging from instigating ethnic violence in southern Kyrgyzstan to killing the former head of the of the ousted president’s administration Medet Sadyrkulov. During former President Kurmanbek Bakiev’s reign, Anapiyaev even served as head of the country’s wrestling federation and supported the stability of the regime by criminal means. Until his murder in Minsk, Anapiyaev was supposedly residing in United Arab Emirates.
A few days after Anapiyaev’s murder, his associate and body guard Gulzhigit Abdulazizov arrived in Bishkek from Minsk and voluntarily surrendered to the authorities, saying that his life was in danger. He also claimed that he had witnessed the murder and remembered the killers. During the interrogation, Abdulazizov was given photos of his associate’s potential killers and recognized two men, the former president’s brother and head of the state bodyguard’s service Zhanyshbek Bakiev, and Aibek Abdrazakov, a former high official in the Kyrgyz Ministry of Interior. Kyrgyz investigators also included a picture of Kazakhstan’s Minister for Culture and Sport Arystanbek Mukhamediuly among the suspects, in the belief that the former resembles the former Kyrgyz president’s brother. Upon Kazakhstan’s demand for an explanation, the Kyrgyz Ministry of Interior recently sent an official excuse to Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Culture and Sport.
Following Anapiyaev’s murder in Minsk, Kyrgyzstan’s President Almazbek Atambayev publicly criticized and accused Belarus of sheltering the Bakiev family. In his words, “the witness’ testimony leaves no doubt that the brother of the ousted president and his team killed Anapiyaev in a lively area of Minsk.” The Kyrgyz President’s speech was full of emotional language: “Who else do the Bakievs have to murder before Belarusian authorities will see the cannibalistic nature of the family? Those monsters will shed blood anywhere, where they are, including in Belarus, which gave them shelter.” The next day, Minsk issued an equally unfriendly statement noting that “these kinds of overheated emotional statements cannot come out of a civilized country’s leader, the constitution and laws in any modern country guarantee that nobody can be called guilty of any crime until his or her guilt is proven by a court’s verdict. However, taking into account a series of trials in absentia that were held in Kyrgyzstan, one can say that this country has its own specific approach to justice.” The Belarusian Foreign Ministry has also criticized Bishkek for being incapable of giving due protection to its own citizens.
For several years, Bishkek has repeatedly demanded from Minsk to extradite the Bakievs to Kyrgyzstan to face multiple criminal charges. The Kyrgyz courts have sentenced former president Bakiev and his brother in absentia to life imprisonment for killing protestors during the April 2010 events and for their involvement in organizing ethnic clashes in June 2010. In turn, Minsk prefers to ignore these demands and has already provided the ousted Kyrgyz president with Belarusian citizenship. After the Ukrainian Euromaidan in 2014, Belarusian President Lukashenko also expressed his readiness to provide shelter for the deposed President Yanukovych, but the former preferred to stay in Russia instead. On February 27, dozens of protestors rallied outside Belarus’s Embassy in Bishkek, demanding the extradition of the Bakiev brothers. The protestors were holding posters reading “The Bakievs are murderers” and “Belarus, Stop giving shelter to criminals.”
According to local experts, Anapiyaev may simply have been killed as a result of a conflict between various criminal groups striving to control drug traffic in the country. However, Kyrgyzstan’s leadership places all the blame on the Bakievs and seems satisfied with taking advantage of a remote public enemy in its domestic political machinations, making the episode timely especially in light of the upcoming parliamentary elections this autumn.
The author writes in his personal capacity. The views expressed are his own and do not represent the views of the organization for which he works
The Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst is a biweekly publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program, a Joint Transatlantic Research and Policy Center affiliated with the American Foreign Policy Council, Washington DC., and the Institute for Security and Development Policy, Stockholm. For 15 years, the Analyst has brought cutting edge analysis of the region geared toward a practitioner audience.