By Arslan Sabyrbekov (04/01/2015 issue of the CACI Analyst)
The unofficial visit to Moldova’s capital Chisinau of Kyrgyzstan’s President, on the private jet of one of the country’s influential oligarchs, has spawned different opinions among the Kyrgyz public. The country’s leading opposition forces have sharply criticized the visit and demanded immediate clarification from the president.
On March 15, President Atambayev’s press service released official information on his upcoming visit to Saint Petersburg to hold bilateral talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. Later, a number of media sources reported that before heading to Russia, Atambayev also visited Chisinau for several hours to speak with the local oligarch and deputy head of Moldova’s Democratic Party, Vlad Plahotniuc, who even provided his private jet to the Kyrgyz President.
During his short stay in Chisinau, Atambayev did not meet Moldova’s President Nicolae Timofti or any other high-ranking state officials, a gesture described by many experts to be highly undiplomatic. In explanation, Timofti’s press secretary told local media that Kyrgyzstan’s President was short on time to organize a meeting of two heads of states and confirmed that he instead met “someone” in Chisinau. That “someone’s” reputation in Moldova has raised further widespread criticism of the Kyrgyz President. According to Chisinau-based political analyst Igor Bocan, Atambayev’s interlocutor is considered Moldova’s richest man and one of the most influential figures in the country, controlling a number of economic spheres including the banking sector. Plahotniuc has earlier been involved in legal scandals related to his business activities in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, noted Bocan.
The unannounced or rather secretive visit to Chisinau immediately activated the Kyrgyz opposition. During a session of the Kyrgyz Parliament, opposition MP and leader of the United Opposition Movement Ravshan Jeenbekov criticized the President for using someone’s private jet and demanded an explanation of the visit’s purpose. In his words, “as head of an independent state, the president has no right to use someone’s private jet and the Kyrgyz public has the full right to know where the Kyrgyz president was, which meetings he held and what subjects were discussed.” Jeenbekov has further suggested creating a special commission to investigate the matter and draw concrete conclusions. Following a number of similar critical remarks, the head of the Presidential Administration’s foreign relations department Sapar Isakov released a statement noting, “it is not yet time to comment Almazbek Atambayev’s unofficial meeting in Chisinau, but I could clearly state that this visit, just like all other activities of the president, was dictated by the national interests of the Kyrgyz Republic.” Isakov refrained from giving any further comments.
Kyrgyz and Moldovan news media are prodding the real purpose of the Kyrgyz president’s brief meeting with Moldova’s controversial oligarch and politician. A number of experts claim that the two might have discussed Moldova’s perspective of joining the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union, with the Kyrgyz president being the Kremlin’s messenger. Others argue that the meeting exclusively focused on business related issues. Nevertheless, this is not the first time that Kyrgyzstan’s highest state official held secret talks with foreign oligarchs. During the tenure of the ousted President Kurmanbek Bakiev, media reported on his secret meeting with Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky, who was then wanted by Russian prosecutors for a number of criminal charges, ranging from financial fraud to engineering a putsch.
After his controversial visit to Chisinau, Kyrgyzstan’s president flew on the same jet to Saint Petersburg to meet his Russian counterpart. This was Putin’s first public appearance in more than a week, leading to various rumors of his whereabouts. Atambayev said, “They are not very correct.” He added that “The Russian President not just goes out for strolls, but takes the seat at the wheel to take his guests for a fast ride.”
Currently, Kyrgyzstan’s president is paying official visits to a number of European countries and has met with the Austrian, Swiss and French presidents. The Kyrgyz delegation is expected to hold talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Joachim Gauck in Berlin in the beginning of April.
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.
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
KAZAKHSTAN AND THE EEU, by Dmitry Shlapentokh
U.S. NEW SILK ROAD INITIATIVE NEEDS URGENT RENEWAL, by Richard Weitz
IS “TURKISH STREAM” A SERIOUS THREAT TO THE TRANS-CASPIAN PIPELINE?, by Juraj Beskid, Tomáš Baranec
CASA-1,000 – HIGH VOLTAGE IN CENTRAL ASIA, by Franz J. Marty
KYRGYZSTAN’S RESIGNED PROSECUTOR-GENERAL GIVES WORRYING PRESS CONFERENCE, by Arslan Sabyrbekov
MOSCOW PLEDGES TO COUNTERACT GEORGIA’S INTEGRATION WITH NATO, by Eka Janashia
ARMENIA TOUGHENS ITS STANCE AGAINST TURKEY, by Erik Davtyan
FOREIGN MINISTERS OF TURKEY, AZERBAIJAN AND TURKMENISTAN DISCUSS ENERGY AND TRANSPORTATION IN ASHGABAT, by Tavus Rejepova
By Franz J. Marty (03/04/2015 issue of the CACI Analyst)
CASA-1,000 envisages hydro-electricity exports from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Due to the security situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a study designated CASA-1,000 a high risk project. Recently concluded agreements between the participating countries, the currently ongoing procurement and the completed construction of another transmission line nonetheless promise a realization.
By Arslan Sabyrbekov (03/04/2015 issue of the CACI Analyst)
On February 11, Kyrgyzstan's former prosecutor-general Aida Salyanova gave her first press conference since her recent resignation, describing it as "forced" rather than "voluntary," as was previously claimed by representatives of the president's closest circle. In her words, the main reason for her resignation was the obvious lack of support from the side of the president, who "could not or did not wish to guarantee security and sustainability for her office's work in combating corruption."
Rumors about Salyanova leaving her office started to circulate some time before she submitted her official letter of resignation on January 19. At his end of the year press conference last December, President Almazbek Atambayev denied information about the prosecutor-general's possible resignation stating that, "her work is very complex and she is tired. She has a family and children and needed some time to rest." Back then, the president assured the public that Aida Salyanova will return to work after her short vacation and wished the country to have such a "President as Salyanova." However, the prosecutor-general's long vacation generated further rumors, with local political observers suggesting that the head of the Presidential Administration Daniyar Narymbaev may replace her, and that she might be appointed as Kyrgyzstan's next envoy to Washington, DC.
Salyanova was appointed Kyrgyzstan's prosecutor-general in April 2011, after serving as the President's representative in Parliament and briefly as Minister of Justice. Under her leadership, the prosecutor-general's office has conducted an unprecedented fight against corruption with a number of high profile cases filed against the country's top high ranking officials, including the former speaker of Parliament, former Mayor of Bishkek, former Minister for Social Development, and a number of prominent parliamentarians. She is perceived by part of the public as Kyrgyzstan's "Iron Lady" and as a symbol of the fight against corruption, while others believe that she became a victim of the system and simply turned into an instrument of selective justice.
The former prosecutor-general's open criticism against the country's president caused an immediate reaction from his office. "Aida Salyanova was given full political support and freedom of action for the entire period of her tenure as Kyrgyzstan's prosecutor-general," stated presidential adviser Farid Niyazov. The high-ranking White House official also added that "for a long time, information about the intervention of people from Salyanova's inner circle into the affairs of her office existed only in the form of anonymous letters and rumors, and the attitude of the president was therefore appropriate. However, when these rumors began to appear as facts, she was proposed to draw conclusions, lost the president's trust and is now making false statements for her own political benefit." Shortly before Salyanova's resignation, local media sources have spread information that her spouse and an aide at the Justice Ministry, Bakyt Abdykaparov, received US$ 50,000 for his alleged assistance in terminating the criminal case against officials of the municipal enterprise Tazalyk. Salyanova described these assertions as a clear information attack against her.
The most important announcement during the former prosecutor-general's press conference was her intention and readiness to participate in the upcoming parliamentary elections in October 2015. Contrary to local political analysts' views that she will join one of the large political parties, Salyanova has been unanimously affirmed as Chairwoman of the relatively new political party called Kuchtuu Kyrgyzstan (Strong Kyrgyzstan). According to Bishkek-based political observer Mars Sariev, her political party has very good chances of entering the next Parliament and emphasize combating corruption in its election program. Local analysts also do not exclude the possibility that prior to elections, Salyanova's party might merge with larger political parties, socialist Ata Meken party being at the top of the list.
In the meantime, Kyrgyzstan's Parliament has supported the nomination of a new prosecutor-general, Indira Joldubaeva, who has previously served as head of the justice sector reform department in the presidential apparatus. The newly appointed Joldubaeva, 35, is the youngest serving prosecutor-general in Kyrgyzstan's history and has prior to her nomination attained widespread criticism for not having worked a single day in the prosecution system.
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.