Kyrgyzstan ex-president arrested after bloody standoff

Kyrgyzstan ex-president arrested after bloody standoff

Kyrgyzstan’s ex-president has been arrested after urging his supporters to push for the removal of the government, following an earlier failed police attempt to arrest him that left one police officer dead and more than 80 people injured.

Almazbek Atambayev, 62, who served as president from 2011 to 2017, accused his successor and former protege, Sooronbai Jeenbekov, of fabricating false criminal charges against him to silence criticism.

Atambayev said he fired several shots during yesterday’s (Wednesday) arrest attempt, but had “tried not to hit people”. Jeenbekov told an emergency parliamentary session that Atambayev must be charged for firing at the police.

A 22-year-old special forces officer was shot dead during an attempt to arrest Atambayev at his home.

He died during a clash between Kyrgyz troops and Atambayev’s supporters, who were trying to prevent his arrest at his rural home in Koi-Tash outside the capital, Bishkek.

The impoverished former Soviet republic remains close to Moscow.

The Kyrgyz health ministry said 36 people, including 15 members of the security services, had been taken to hospital after the clash.

Atambayev remained in his compound after the earlier incident. Jeenbekov’s staff said the president would hold a security council meeting today (Thursday) after cutting short a holiday.

Two post-Soviet presidents have been ousted in violent revolts: Askar Akayev in the 2005 so-called Tulip Revolution and Kurmanbek Bakiyev in 2010.

Roads leading to Atambayev’s home in Koi-Tash were barricaded by his supporters and extra security personnel were eventually deployed, according to a witness called Mirbek Aitikeyev.

An amateur video shows numerous injured people as men in military uniforms run through the gates. “Don’t shoot at people!” somebody can be heard shouting.

After endorsing Jeenbekov in 2017, Atambyev fell out with his successor after publicly criticising him.

The authorities are seeking to prosecute Atambayev on corruption charges and he had his immunity lifted by MPs in June. Since losing his immunity, which Atambayev claimed was unconstitutional, the former president has repeatedly rejected requests from the police to appear for questioning. He has also called Jeenbekov’s government a “mafia clan” and said he would “stand to the end” against the allegations.

Atambayev said earlier today that he was willing to cooperate “on his own terms” with the authorities, despite condemning the raid as unlawful.

“There is still time for the authorities to change their minds,” Atambayev said. “We are not a people that is prepared to live on our knees. We are not sheep from the collective farm.”

Bishkek. Picture credit: Wikimedia

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