In the hunt for Kurmanbek Bakiyev and his hated brother, Kyrgyzstan is now officially on its own, 24.kg reports.
Several times, Bishkek has turned to Interpol to help apprehend and extradite former president Bakiyev, his security chief brother Janysh, and a few others. They are accused of abusing office and shooting protesters during their bloody ouster last April. As they clung to power, over 80 people died in Bishkek’s main square. Kurmanbek has since taken up residence in Belarus, where the government of Alexander Lukashenko has refused Bishkek’s repeated extradition requests.
In a letter to the Kyrgyz prosecutor general, Interpol officials suggest the Bakiyev pursuit is politically motivated and said they would not interfere in a country’s internal political affairs.
It is unclear how 24.kg obtained the letter.
Interpol does want Kurmanbek’s notorious son, Maxim, however. Maxim is thought to be hiding in Britain, where he has reportedly applied for asylum.
Back in Bishkek, the Bakiyevs are being prosecuted in absentia for the April 7 bloodshed. Plagued by irregularities, the emotional -- and at times violent -- trial has led legal observers and human rights activists to conclude that no country which respects due process would extradite the clan back to their homeland.
Mountain, mountain standing tall, who’s the fairest of them all?
In one of his first legislative directives, Kyrgyzstan’s new Prime Minister Almazbek Atambayev has sponsored a bill to designate one of his country’s myriad unnamed mountains Vladimir Putin Peak after the Russian prime minister.
Atambayev submitted the bill to parliament on the eve of his trip to Moscow. Perhaps he was worried he had nothing to offer the Russian strongman. But it makes you wonder: What else did the two men give each other?
The 4,446-meter (14,586-foot) summit is by no means among Kyrgyzstan’s tallest, but the honor is relative: It is 1,000 meters taller than Mt. Yeltsin, named after Putin’s predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, in 2002. Still, Putin’s pinnacle is way shorter than the 7,134-meter (23,406-foot) Lenin Peak on the Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan border.
Russian officials often suggest that Central Asia’s poorest statelets -- Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan -- should join their new Customs Union. But is Moscow really interested in letting this troublesome pair into its elite new club?
An analysis by a member of the Russian State Duma’s CIS affairs committee and printed by state-owned RIA Novosti bluntly says what trade experts in Bishkek have been telling me all year: Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are way too unstable, and their borders too unguarded, to join.
The potential new members, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, are unlikely to add anything but economic problems and political instability to the situation. Low incomes, skyrocketing unemployment and corruption make these countries very vulnerable to extremism.
Neither produces much of export value and their purchasing power is negligible compared with the union’s Kazakhstan, Belarus and Russia, which, according to this analysis, collectively produce 80 percent of the CIS’s GDP.
Five years after Uzbekistan’s Islam Karimov rejected inquiries into the shooting of hundreds of his unarmed citizens, Central Asia’s most fearsome despot made a touchingly hypocritical about-face this summer and called for an international investigation into ethnic violence in southern Kyrgyzstan.
How’s that for resuscitating his legacy?
Now, Kyrgyzstan’s deeply distrusted “National Commission” investigating the June events has nominated Karimov for some sort of state award because he accepted up to 80,000 refugees (before quickly ushering them back home).
Never mind they still cannot present a convincing picture of what happened in June and that several of the most prominent members left the commission in disgust; the body is also mulling how to nominate Karimov -- the dictator who tried to make boiling alive his opponents chic -- for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Who will be more popular in Kyrgyzstan come New Year’s Day: newly appointed Prime Minister Almazbek Atambayev or his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin?
During his maiden trip to Moscow as premier, Atambayev secured a beautiful deal: Putin promised to drop, as of January 1, the punitive oil export tariffs he had instituted several days before Kurmanbek Bakiyev was overthrown last April. At the time, it seemed Putin was punishing Bakiyev for reneging on a promise to evict the Americans from their airbase at Manas.
The move could result in a 25 percent reduction of gasoline prices at the pump, and trickle down support throughout the ailing Kyrgyz economy.
In addition, Putin may have offered a $200 million loan to help Kyrgyzstan out of its crisis, Atambayev suggested.
What Atambayev promised in return is unclear, but he sought Russian investment in the country’s struggling energy sector, noting that Kyrgyzstan has “unbreakable bonds with Russia.” Moscow sees influence upstream as a lever over prickly Uzbekistan.
Man of the hour: Newly elected Prime Minister Almazbek Atambayev at a Bishkek rally in March.
Three of Kyrgyzstan’s quarreling parties have finally succeeded – after two months and one failed attempt – to form a government. The partnership may seem an unlikely one, but it unifies the country’s fractious north and south and all hopes are on this group to shepherd the country safely into a new year without political instability and violence.
Parliament convened on December 17 to approve the coalition proposed by Respublika leader Omurbek Babanov. Provisional President Roza Otunbayeva chose Babanov to lead the process on December 4, after the first attempt by her Social Democratic Party’s (SDPK) Almazbek Atambayev, fell through.
He hasn’t presented any proof yet, but Kyrgyz Ombudsman Tursunbek Akun says his office’s investigation has concluded that local Uzbeks began ethnic clashes in southern Kyrgyzstan this summer to carve off a piece of the country and join neighboring Uzbekistan. They then intended to overthrow strongman Islam Karimov, he said in comments carried by AKIpress.
Akun added that the Uzbeks started the fight but Kyrgyz then “finished it very harshly and more roughly.”
“The aim of the provocateurs was to create an autonomous region and make Uzbek its official language. They wanted to make Osh and Jalal-Abad regions an autonomous region of Uzbekistan. They had links with Uzbek citizens, rich Uzbek people who speak out against Karimov. And they wanted to overthrow Karimov and elect their person instead of him and rule all of Uzbekistan with Osh and Jalal-Abad regions."
Uzbek nationalist aspirations were one of the earliest explanations for June’s violence cited by official sources. However, convincing publicly available evidence has been scant.
In Kyrgyzstan, stories about the former president’s naughty son Maxim Bakiyev receive about as many column inches as the royal family in Britain’s tabloids. So, nodding to the temptation, this one is purely for the juice.
Maxim, that infamous playboy, surrounded himself with groveling businessmen and politicians in his father’s kingdom, but that did not buy him their loyalty, suggests another wikileaked cable available on the Russky Reporter website.
The cable describes an ostentatious opening party for Maxim’s newest resort on Lake Issyk-Kul in June 2009:
The main focus of the event was not the hotel, which nearly all attendees commented was done shoddily and in poor taste, but Maxim and his entourage. Maxim arrived at a nearby airport in his private plane, traveled to the hotel in a large motorcade with police escort, and moved around the party itself with eight bodyguards. Maxim mingled among the guests with his official wife Aijana (he is well known to have another girlfriend) on one side and Prime Minister Igor Chudinov on the other. Neither Aijana nor Chudinov looked happy to be there.
The author, former US Charge d’Affaires Lee Litzenberger, suggested throughout the cable that Maxim was widely disliked by his anxious coterie of businessmen, with one “otherwise loyal” interlocutor suggesting “the President is letting his son get away with too much -- and that these excesses will hurt the family and country in the end.”
Moscow is making no secret of its desire to return troops to the Afghanistan-Tajikistan border, perhaps the most porous frontier between the failed state and post-Soviet Central Asia.
Visiting Dushanbe on December 9, Foreign Ministry official Maxim Peshkov said the two sides had been actively discussing the topic, Ferghana.ru reports.
"Given the situation in Afghanistan and the growing threat of terrorism, Russia is ready to return to the Tajik-Afghan border," said the representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry.
Peshkov said that the question of the return of Russian border guards to Tajikistan is one of the constant themes of talks between Dushanbe and Moscow. He stressed that this issue is still pending. "If the Tajik side offers us the protection of their borders, then we have no reason to deny them this,” explained Peshkov.
Just two weeks ago, Peshkov -- a former ambassador to Dushanbe -- was in town negotiating an end to the tariffs imposed earlier this year on Russian oil products destined for Tajikistan. (Yes, they're talking about dropping the taxes, which pushed the price of petrol up by 30 percent overnight, entirely.)
Could the Kremlin be bribing its way back? Moscow is clearly interested in resuming oversight of the border, which Russian troops patrolled until July 2005 when President Emomali Rakhmon asked them to leave. Drug trafficking has boomed since then, making some people in Tajikistan very rich.
We journalists working in the countries of the former Soviet Union confront a constant menace: the risk of annoying repressive governments and subsequent deportation. But worse than deportation from a single state is the threat of being blacklisted -- or PNG’d -- from them all.
A new report by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, “Persona Non Grata: The CIS ban system for human rights defenders and journalists,” catalogues the practice of at least six Commonwealth of Independent States countries (Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan), which have an agreement “where individuals who are denied entry to one of the six member states automatically are denied entry to the others.”
The topic has received little international attention in the past.
Paradoxically comparing the system to Europe’s Schengen visa agreement -- whereby an entry visa to one country facilitates cross-border travel in all -- the report describes how the six states share their “blacklists” of human rights activists and journalists. “Such decisions are usually made by the security services of the country in question, and those who are barred in this manner are neither provided with a reason for the ban, nor given any means of appeal,” the report says.