The former head of the Kyrgyz presidential administration is dead. The body of Medet Sadyrkulov was pulled from a burnt-out car in a Bishkek suburb in the early hours of March 13 following an apparent head-on collision with another vehicle. The incident has the potential to stoke political tension in the Central Asian nation.
Sadyrkulov and Sergei Slepchenko, the former head of the Kyrgyz Center of Strategic Studies, and their driver, were returning from Kazakhstan when the accident occurred, local officials said. The 24-year-old driver of the other car was taken into police custody.
Fatal auto accidents are by no means rare in Central Asia, where drivers often flout basic safety rules, such as trying to pass another car on a two-lane highway while traveling up hill under conditions of limited visibility. Nevertheless, opposition figures lost no time in characterizing Sadyrkulov's death as suspicious. Some have alleged that the former chief-of-staff was assassinated because he was about to enter into a political alliance with President Kurmanbek Bakiyev's political rivals.
"This, of course, is a political assassination, a customized accident," said Omurbek Tekebaev, the leader of the Ata-Meken Party. "I know that after leaving his post as head of the president's administration, Medet Sadyrkulov had contact with representatives of various political forces, including the opposition."
Emilbek Kaptagaev, the leader of the Uluu Birimdik Party, claimed that he talked to Sadyrkulov on March 12, at which time they discussed the aims of the United People's Movement, an umbrella organization of opposition parties that is planning to hold mass protests on March 27. "Medet Sadyrkulov represented a real threat to the existing regime, not only because he knew much about them and their affairs, but also because he possessed great energy and exceptional talent as an organizational mastermind," Kaptagaev said in a March 13 statement. "His move to the political opposition's camp would speed up the elimination of the current criminal and corrupt power."
Sadyrkulov, who was known as a gray cardinal because of the backroom influence he wielded as Bakiyev's lieutenant, resigned as presidential chief-of-staff in early January. At the time, he explained his decision as motivated by a desire to "make way for fresh blood." [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/insightb/articles/eav010809.shtml
Political pundits said the real reason for his departure was that he had become a divisive figure within the governmental team. He was said to be unpopular with some factions backing Bakiyev. However, it was widely expected that he would assume a new office within the administration and was temporarily touted as the next foreign minister before Kadyrbek Sarbayev was appointed in early February.
Sadyrkulov, 55, was chief-of-staff under ex-president Askar Akayev and a former ambassador to Iran from 2000-2005. After Akayev was ousted in the 2005 Tulip Revolution, Sadyrkulov faced corruption and abuse of power charges, but was later cleared. In July 2006 he was appointed Bakiyev's chief-of-staff and is credited with helping the president consolidate power. He was married with three children.