“Atambayev made wrong move using supporters as cannon fodder”
Political experts call the actions of the ex-president of Kyrgyzstan the main mistake in his career, the consequences can lead to the third revolution
Disturbing news related to the operation to detain former President Almazbek Atambayev, who offered fierce resistance, continue to come from Kyrgyzstan. As a result of collisions and firing, 80 people suffered, one fighter of special troops died. In the end, the former Kyrgyz ruler surrendered to the authorities. Atambayev is prosecuted in a criminal case on charges of illegal enrichment, corruption in the modernization of the Bishkek thermal power station, illegal sale of land plots and distribution of weapons, release of the crime boss Aziz Batukayev, usurpation of power and other crimes. In July, the ex-president was deprived of immunity, and then opened a case. Famous politician, former Press Secretary of the government of Kazakhstan and columnist for Realnoe Vremya specializing in coverage of political events in Central Asia, Amirzhan Kosanov in the interview with our publication gives an assessment of the actions of the Kyrgyz authorities and Almazbek Atambayev.
“Every politician has a choice: whether his political struggle worth the victims of ordinary people”
Mr Kosanov, how do you assess the recent events in Kyrgyzstan: Atambaev’s mansion storming, collisions with victims, the authorities' actions?
It seems to me that every politician, whether he is acting or “ex”, always has a choice: whether his political struggle, his goals and objectives worth the victims of ordinary people. I think this is a Rubicon that separates any politician in any space, whether it is the post-Soviet space or any other state. Therefore, I think that Atambayev had a choice. Unfortunately, he admitted himself: I read in the media, he shot with military weapons, the others, those who defended him, were without military weapons.
I think that, of course, we cannot objectively assess the full background of the accusations against him now — whether there is a political component in them, whether there is his persecution as a political opponent. But it would be right if he, as a politician, with his attorney within the legal framework existing in the state of Kyrgyzstan, would address these problems, proving his case in court, especially that he was the president of this state, especially that Kyrgyzstan went through a democratic catharsis and there are democratic principles, including the protection of their rights as the accused. I think he made a completely wrong move using supporters as cannon fodder, as a shield personally for his person. I think that has been his biggest mistake in his political career.
Atambayev himself provokes an escalation of tension, it can end with the third revolution in the neighbouring state
We can understand the current government as well: if there are claims and questions to Atambayev as the head of state, who may have committed violations of the law related to corruption and other charges, and if the government is on guard of the law, of course, it should go the whole way. I like the approach of the current government when they say that they will not use military weapons during a special operation. Not conducting a dialogue with the current government, Atambayev himself provokes an escalation of tension, it can end with the third revolution in the neighbouring state. And this is dangerous not only for Kyrgyzstan, because the very idea of democratic change of power, which is somehow implemented in this country, will be discredited.
Should Russia interfere in the events in Kyrgyzstan? How should we react to what is happening?
I think that any state, whether it is Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, neighbouring states or great powers with geopolitical interests in our region, should refrain from influence, but insist that everything is resolved peacefully, in a civilized, constitutional way within the existing legislation in Kyrgyzstan. Interference, whether overt, public or covert, is totally unacceptable and can lead to other, more serious consequences in political history.
“Kyrgyzstan, having gone through two revolutions, paid dearly for the changeability of power”
Why did Vladimir Putin meet with Atambayev and how they reacted in Kyrgyzstan?
I watched the video from that meeting. I think Putin spoke quite clearly: he said that it is necessary to rally around the current president, it is necessary to get along with the current government. He did not take the side of Atambayev because the presidents come and go, but the current president, the legitimate president is the subject with which all his partners should have relations.
I think Putin spoke quite clearly: he said that it is necessary to rally around the current president, it is necessary to get along with the current government
Frankly speaking, in our Central Asian region, such trips to Moscow, when politicians begin to look for support — moral and political, are not welcomed by society. If you are a politician, you must first find support among your own people and act within the framework of existing legislation. Interference from the outside, whether in the post-Soviet space or any other part of the globe, is not welcomed, it shows weakness. Any country should decide itself, go through the stages of formation of both political power and the opposition, which Atambayev represents, the formation of an independent law enforcement system and independent courts.
Such tough measures against Atambayev speak about the weakness of the position of Sooronbay Jeenbekov? Does he see him as a serious threat?
I don't think so. There is, of course, in Kyrgyzstan the eternal problem of the north and the south, about which we all know. But I think that Kyrgyzstan, having gone through two revolutions, paid dearly to deserve democratic foundations and civilized changeability of power.
I watched the process when Atambayev was invited. I think that the authorities had quite a wide manoeuver — they invited him several times, but he did not come. If he, as the president, as a politician and as a citizen is for compliance with the law, he has to comply with the legal requirements of law enforcement agencies, and, as I have said, in court, during the investigation to prove his innocence. Moreover, he has information resources and supporters who could make any of his arguments public. I think that he had mechanisms of a peaceful way out of this situation.
I don't think that Zheenbekov has lost something for his image. I don't think he showed a weakness, on the contrary
“So far I don't see Jeenbekov's blunders because he acts within the law”
The unsuccessful operation damaged the image of the current government, is the support for Atambayev going to increase? He holds the position of a victim of circumstance, and our people like to commiserate...
Frankly speaking, I do not see such damage to Zheenbekov. Even the fact that the special forces suffered losses and actually surrendered to the electrified supporters of Atambayev, shows still that there was no such that as the chairman of the GKNB (State Committee for National Security of the Kyrgyz Republic — editor’s note) said that he regrets that he did not give the command to shoot to kill. So far, I do not see Jeenbekov's blunders because he acts within the law, he understands that any of his illegal actions, any of his actions that will not comply with legal norms will cause a response of protest from the pluralistic Kyrgyz society, so I do not see any [blunders] on the part Jeenbekov.
Even in this situation, this softness of actions of special troops is more welcomed by society than criticized. Therefore, I do not think that Zheenbekov has lost something for his image here. I don't think he showed a weakness. On the contrary. Sorry, but it's in Kazakhstan unarmed Zhanaozen oil workers were shot in 2011 — this is real repression against its own people.
I know that now the situation is becoming tenser, there is an escalation on the part of Atambayev because if at first, it was just about criminal cases against him, now his supporters raise purely political issues: the resignation of the president, the government and so on. It seems to me that this is a desire to divert the attention of the public, including international, from the true background of what is happening. I repeat once again — Atambayev has opportunities, including media resources, and legal resources to answer them if there are any questions to him. There is no need to bring everything to such a conflict at the domestic level, when because of several accusations against one retired president the nation is involved both on this and on the other side.