Kyrgyz special forces arrest former president

BISHKEK/Aug. 8 (The Bulletin) — Kyrgyz special forces arrested former president Almazbek Atambayev after a 24-hour siege at his fortified compound outside Bishkek in which at least one soldier died and dozens more were injured.

Shortly after his arrest, Mr Atambayev, president in 2011-17, was charged with corruption and his police mugshot was published.

Mr Atambayev and his supporters have called the charges politically motivated. Atambayev has fallen out with his handpicked successor Sooronbai Jeenbekov. Earlier, before his capture, Mr Jeenbekov called Mr Atambayev a criminal at an emergency session of Parliament.

“By putting up fierce armed resistance to the investigative measures undertaken within the framework of the law, Almazbek Atambayev heavily trampled upon the constitution and laws of Kyrgyzstan,” he said.

The two men fell out because Mr Atambayev had wanted to retain some backseat power after retirement, a move that Mr Jeenbekov rejected.
Police flooded central Bishkek on Thursday night, hours after Mr Atambayev’s arrest, expecting angry crowds, but although it was tense, it was also quiet.

Analysts though said that the arrest and the violence around the arrest, with an estimated 200 supporters of Mr Atamayev holding off the special forces soldiers, had pushed Kyrgyzstan, considered the most fragile country in Central Asia, into a period of instability.

Much depends on how Russia reacts. Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin invited Mr Atambayev to the Kremlin. Afterwards, he told the two men to make their peace as he didn’t want to see more instability.


— This story was first published in issue 418 of The Bulletin

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