|Wednesday, 24 February 2021|
RFE/RL Newsline, 05-03-28
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
 KYRGYZ PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS SET FOR 26 JUNE, ACTING PRIME MINISTER ANNOUNCES INTENTION TO RUN.Iskhak Masaliev, a member of Kyrgyzstan's outgoing parliament, announced on 26 March that the legislature has scheduled new presidential elections for 26 June, RFE/RL reported. Acting Prime Minister Kurmanbek Bakiev said the same day that "I think I should participate [as a candidate]" in that pre-term ballot. Feliks Kulov, the recently released leader of the Ar-Namys party who is currently overseeing the law-enforcement agencies, told RIA-Novosti on 27 March that he has not yet decided on a presidential bid. He added, "The issue of the forthcoming presidential elections is highly problematic." DK
 OLD KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT YIELDS TO NEW...The powers of the bicameral Kyrgyz parliament elected in 2000 are terminated as of 28 March, Central Election Commission acting Chairman Tuigunaly Abdraimov told journalists on 28 March. Abdraimov was appointed to that post on 27 March after Sulaiman Imanbaev resigned for health reasons. ITAR-TASS on 28 March quoted Ishenbai Kadyrbekov, speaker of the lower chamber of the "old" legislature, as saying that deputies made that decision on political, rather than constitutional grounds, in order not to exacerbate tensions. The "new" unicameral parliament elected in the disputed 27 February and 13 March elections went into session on 22 March, but the Supreme Court revoked its mandate on 24 March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 and 25 March 2005). Both old and new parliaments met in Bishkek on 27 March, raising the specter of a crisis of legitimacy. Acting Prosecutor-General Azambek Beknazarov suggested that both parliaments, old and new, should give up their powers to clear the way for new elections. Then on 27 March, Abdraimov recognized the new parliament, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. DK
 ...WHICH ELECTS SPEAKER DESPITE NEW PROTEST.At its inaugural session on 28 March, the new parliament elected Omurbek Tekebaev, leader of the opposition Ata-Meken party, as its speaker in a secret ballot, akipress.org reported. Tekebaev, who was a deputy in all three previous parliaments elected since 1991, defeated two rival candidates, Kubatbek Baybolov and Zhantoro Satybaldiev. Meanwhile, some 200 supporters of the outgoing parliament congregated outside the parliament building to protest its dissolution, akipress.org. They declared that "it was not for this" that demonstrators took to the streets days earlier. Several dozen policemen are reportedly guarding the entrances to the parliament building. LF
 OSCE OFFERS LEGAL ASSISTANCE.OSCE Secretary-General Jan Kubis arrived in Bishkek on 27 March to offer Kyrgyzstan legal assistance in resolving the difficulties that have arisen since the fall on 24 March of President Askar Akaev's administration, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Kubis and Alojz Peterle, the special envoy for Central Asia of OSCE Chairman in Office Dmitrij Rupel, met the same day with Bakiev and other members of the new leadership, AFP reported. Peterle told journalists after those talks that the OSCE would like to see the two sides embark on a dialogue aimed at resolving their differences peacefully. DK
 FREED KYRGYZ OPPOSITION LEADER HOPES TO LEGALIZE RELEASE.Ar-Namys party Chairman Kulov, who was released from jail at protesters' insistence on 24 March, announced on 27 March that his lawyers have filed a petition with the Supreme Court to review his case, akipress.org reported. Kulov had been serving a combined 17-year sentence on embezzlement charges widely viewed as politically motivated. He said, "If the Supreme Court refuses my lawyers' request, I'll have no choice but to continue serving my sentence. That's the law." DK
 E-MAIL ASCRIBED TO OUSTED PRESIDENT CONDEMNS 'COUP...'An e-mail statement published by Kabar on 25 March and attributed to President Akaev described the storming of the government building on 24 March as an "anti-constitutional coup." Dismissing opposition leaders as "a coterie of irresponsible political adventurers and plotters," Akaev charged that "a wave of anarchy and pogroms has swept the capital and many parts of the country." He added, "Rumors of my resignation from the presidency are false and malicious." Noting that he chose not to use force against protestors, Akaev stated, "I made the decision to leave the country temporarily in order to avoid bloody excesses." He stressed that he remains the "legitimate president of Kyrgyzstan." The authenticity of the e-mail message could not be independently verified. DK
 ...AS HIS SUPPORTERS LAUNCH, THEN ABANDON PROTEST MARCH.At the initiative of former acting Interior Minister Kenesh Dushebaev, a column of some 1,000 protestors from ousted President Akaev's native village of Kemin began to march on Bishkek on 26 March, but dispersed after negotiations with Constitutional Court chair Cholpon Baekova in the village of Tokbok, 60 kilometers outside the capital, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. According to a report in Russia's "Kommersant-Daily" on 28 March, the protestors were spurred to march on the capital by reports that natives of Kemin were being harassed in Bishkek. Baekova and Dushebaev also hail from Kemin. DK
 NEW LEADERS DIFFER OVER HOW TO TREAT FUGITIVE PRESIDENT.Opposition leaders in Kyrgyzstan have offered conflicting indications of what they would like to see happen to President Akaev, agencies reported. Akaev's whereabouts remain unclear. Acting Prime Minister Bakiev said on 26 March that Akaev achieved "a very great deal for the establishment and development of democracy" in Kyrgyzstan, and he added that the law guarantees Akaev immunity, Interfax reported. Bakiev also said, "It would be good if Akaev came here and submitted his resignation." Acting Foreign Minister Roza Otunbaeva took a harder line in a 26 March interview with ITAR-TASS, saying, "Dialogue between the new authorities in Kyrgyzstan and Akaev is possible only in terms of his responsibility for what he did. The time will come when people will hold him to account for many things that they consider unjust." Otunbaeva told a press conference on 25 March, "At present the new administration is stabilizing the national situation and in the future it may demand the extradition of Akaev, if he is found," ITAR-TASS reported. DK
 RELATIVE CALM RETURNS TO KYRGYZ CAPITAL.The nights of 25 and 26 March were calmer in Bishkek, in contrast to the widespread looting that took place on the night of 24 March, agencies reported. Even though police and citizens' groups patrolled the streets on the night of 25 March, clashes with looters left 18 wounded and one person dead, akipress.org reported. A total of 129 people were detained on the night of 25 March, 82 of them on suspicion of looting. Kulov, who has been placed in charge of law enforcement, announced on 26 March that by 11:00 p.m. the previous night the situation in Bishkek had stabilized, Kyrgyz Television reported. Kulov said that no curfew was imposed. The night of 26 March was also relatively quiet, with more than 4,000 police and citizens' patrols out on the streets, Ekho Moskvy reported, noting that police responded to more than 100 calls during the night. A number of opposition leaders, including acting Prime Minister Bakiev and acting Foreign Minister Otunbaeva, suggested on 25 and 26 March that supporters of ousted President Akaev were behind the widespread looting on the night of 24 March, akipress.org and fergana.ru reported. DK
 ASSASSINATION FEARS FORCE ACTING PRIME MINISTER TO MOVE PRESS CONFERENCE.Yelena Sevchikova, spokesperson for Bakiev, said that a press conference on 26 March was moved to the National Security Service headquarters because of a possible attempt on Bakiev's life, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Queried about the assassination plot, Kulov stated on 27 March, "I don't believe it and I have not as yet been provided with any specific information on this score," RIA-Novosti reported. DK
 U.S., RUSSIAN OFFICIALS CONFER ON KYRGYZ SITUATION.Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice discussed by telephone the situation in Kyrgyzstan on 25 March, ITAR-TASS and other media reported. Lavrov and Rice agreed on the necessity of restoring order in Kyrgyzstan and pledged to encourage the authorities there to bring the political crisis to an end and to restore law and order on the basis of the Kyrgyz Constitution. The two officials called on the OSCE and other international organizations to assist in this process. "They saw eye to eye on this issue," U.S. State Department Deputy Spokesman Adam Ereli said during a 25 March press conference, the department's website (http://www.state.gov) reported. Rice told "The Washington Post" on 25 March that in recent months "the space around Russia is changing and changing pretty dramatically," but this does not mean "the encirclement of Russia." "Russia is only going to realize its full potential if it begins to liberalize even further its politics," Rice said. VY
 PUTIN SPEAKS WITH INTERIM KYRGYZ LEADER.Presidential press spokesman Aleksei Gromov said on 26 March that President Vladimir Putin spoke earlier that day by telephone with Bakiev and promised him Russia's cooperation "based on humanitarian grounds and friendly relations between the two countries," ORT and RTR reported. Putin assured Bakiev that Moscow will consider specific assistance requests, Gromov said. Bakiev told "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 26 March that he asked Putin for help with agricultural equipment, fertilizer, fuel, and bank loans and that Putin was sympathetic to the requests. VY
 INTERIM KYRGYZ LEADER COMMITS TO DEVELOPING RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA.Bakiev told ORT on 26 March that relations between Kyrgyzstan and Russia will "develop and expand," particularly economic relations, and that he will personally do everything he can to facilitate this. "Our relations with Russia have ancient roots and even if someone tried to uproot them, it would be useless," Bakiev said. He added that Russia's military base at Kant will remain as it was, as will the U.S. military base at Manas. Asked about the fate of President Askar Akaev, who has apparently fled the country but who has not resigned his post, Bakiev said that everyone in the republic agrees that he has hopelessly compromised his integrity. "A head of state who flees the country at such a difficult moment has no moral right to lead anymore," Bakiev said. He added that he is ready to extend his personal guarantee of security to Akaev, should he decide to return to Kyrgyzstan. "But Akaev must realize that the indignation and anger the people have for him will not disappear quickly and threats to his security will remain." On 27 March, Bakiev told "Rossiiskaya gazeta" that if Akaev settles in Russia, that "will in no way mar bilateral relations." RBK reported on 27 March that during the last month Bakiev and other former opposition figures traveled to Moscow to talk with Russian officials. VY
 NEW KYRGYZ SECURITY HEAD SAYS RUSSIANS ARE SAFE IN KYRGYZSTAN.Kulov, who is newly responsible for Kyrgyz law enforcement and security agencies, told ORT on 27 March that there will be no more mass disturbances in the country and that he guarantees the security of everyone living there, including ethnic Russians. "Many Russians took part in the protests against [President] Akaev," Kulov said. He also said that the opposition had no plans to overthrow Akaev and that outcome was a surprise. "Somebody started to throw stones into a crowd of teenagers gathered in front of the presidential residence, so they poured into it," Kulov said. "Akaev and his ministers fled the country, leaving power in the hands of teenagers." Kulov said that consultations between Kyrgyz and Russian officials are continuing. VY
 PUTIN SAYS AKAEV WELCOME TO STAY IN RUSSIA.President Putin on 26 March said that Kyrgyz President Akaev has asked permission to settle in Russia and that Moscow has granted it, Russian media reported. ORT and RTR reported on 26 and 27 March that Akaev and former Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Askar Aitmatov are already in Russia. Gennadii Mesyats, vice president of Russia's Academy of Sciences, said he is ready to offer Akaev, who is a physicist by training, a position at the Institute of Electrophysics, utro.ru reported on 26 March. "He is too intelligent and soft for politics, but as a scientist he can always find his way in the contemporary world," Mesyats said. Chingiz Aitmatov, a well-known writer who is also Kyrgyzstan's ambassador to the Benelux countries and father of former Foreign Minister Askar Aitmatov, told RTR on 27 March that the crucial task for the new authorities is to prevent the country from disintegrating. He said that the events in Kyrgyzstan are a lesson for neighboring countries, and compared Akaev's fate to that of former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. He said that he does not know the whereabouts of his son. VY
 RUSSIAN EXPERTS DISCUSS THE ORIGINS OF THE KYRGYZ EVENTS...Speaking on the ORT talk show "Vremena" on 27 March, Moscow Carnegie Center Deputy Director Dmitrii Trenin said the ouster of Kyrgyz President Akaev has elements of both a "violent regime change" and a revolution. He said that the opposition tried to overthrow Akaev because of the elections that it regarded as fraudulent, and it was surprised to find that it was supported by masses of people who originally voted for pro-Akaev candidates. This happened because the Akaev regime was riddled with corruption, Trenin said. Political scientist Andranik Migranyan said on the same show that Akaev's regime was too corrupt to cope with power-sharing and to create a legal succession mechanism, but was not authoritarian enough to suppress the opposition. He said that for Russia it would be better if Kyrgyzstan's territory was split between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. That, he said, would prevent "a domino effect" and regional destabilization. Moscow Carnegie Center expert Aleksei Malashenko said the Kyrgyz events were not a generational power shift or even a struggle for power, since practically no one supported Akaev and his clan. Malashenko said it was a coup d'etat that was prepared from above but was transformed into a revolution by the enthusiastic support of the masses. VY
 ...AND THE CONCERNS OF CHINA IN THE REGION.Also on ORT's "Vremena" on 27 March, Duma CIS Affairs Committee Chairman Andrei Kokoshin (Unified Russia) said the Kyrgyz events differ from the recent events in Georgia and Ukraine because they concern not only Russia, but China as well. China has "a very great interest" in what is happening in Kyrgyzstan because of the presence of the U.S. military base there, the vulnerability of vital strategic Chinese interests and infrastructure, and the threat of Uighur separatism. Kokoshin added that he knows the new Kyrgyz leaders well and is certain that they will do nothing to promote Uighur separatism. He said that Russia will offer economic aid to the new Kyrgyz government to prevent the disintegration of the country. VY
 TEHRAN MONITORS KYRGYZ DEVELOPMENTS...Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi said on 26 March that Iran is watching events in Kyrgyzstan closely, IRNA reported. "We hope conditions in Kyrgyzstan would return to normal as soon as possible," he added. BS
 ...AND BLAMES U.S.A 25 March Iranian state television commentary said events in Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Ukraine, and Georgia show that they are "the focus of foreign powers' attention." Western and particularly American interference is responsible for events in Kyrgyzstan, the commentary claimed. It is "noteworthy," according to state television, "such developments have occurred in countries, the majority of the inhabitants of which are Muslims, which clearly shows the process of the expansionist and hegemonic policies of America." Islam is the majority faith in Kyrgyzstan, but not in Moldova, Ukraine, or Georgia (see interactive map on http://www.rferl.org/specials/religion/). State television claimed some 50 nongovernmental organizations that were established in Kyrgyzstan recently "played a fundamental role in the crisis." It said the United States wants friendly governments in these countries because they possess energy resources, uranium, and nuclear technology. Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani said during his 25 March Friday Prayers sermon in Tehran that events in Kyrgyzstan are just the most recent aspect of a U.S. plot that includes Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan, IRNA reported. BS
 CHINA'S CONCERN OVER KYRGYZSTAN AND XINJIANGBy Patrick Moore
The semi-official China News Service announced in Beijing on 25 March that the Irkeshtam border trading station with Kyrgyzstan is closed and will remain so until 28 March, Reuters reported. The statement said there is "chaos" in Kyrgyzstan and that the trading post was closed "in order to guarantee the safety of passengers and goods." A second trading station along the frontier nonetheless continues to operate.
China's main concern with Kyrgyzstan centers on China's own large and restive Muslim Turkic Uighur minority, which lives primarily in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. That province makes up one-sixth of China's territory and borders on seven countries, including Kyrgyzstan, where the frontier is largely mountainous.
Five decades of Chinese Communist colonization policies have raised the ethnic Chinese, or Han, share of Xinjiang's population from 5 percent to some 40 percent, and about 1 million Chinese troops are stationed there.
Xinjiang is historically closer to Central Asia than to the centers of Chinese power in eastern China. Beijing tenuously controlled it as part of its land empire for only about 100 years in the 18th and 19th centuries, and Chinese influence waned following revolts in the 1860s until the Communists came to power in 1949.
Xinjiang has a long history of political restiveness toward what many Uighurs regard as Chinese colonial rule, and most experts point out that strong tensions are never far beneath the surface. U.S. China expert Gordon G. Chang wrote that "violence flares in Xinjiang almost daily."
Reinforcing the problem is a deep and mutual feeling of cultural alienation. This expresses itself not only in language and religion but even in diet, where the Han Chinese fondness for pork as their staple meat is repugnant to the Muslim Uighurs.
The two communities live next to rather than with each other, and Australian-American sinologist Ross Terrill has described government policies as producing "apartheid with Chinese characteristics."
There is little hard and fast information as to the extent of organized opposition to Chinese rule within Xinjiang, but Beijing has repeatedly made it clear that it will not tolerate any political interference from abroad, where pro-independence Uighur organizations exist. Uighur separatists accuse the ruling Chinese of political, religious, and cultural repression.
The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 triggered fears in Beijing of its possible effect on China's non-Han frontier populations, and the post-Soviet Central Asian governments have generally trod lightly where Chinese sensitivities are concerned.
Beijing is as worried about "splittism" in Xinjiang as it is about "splittism" in neighboring Tibet or "separatism" in Taiwan. The closing of the border trading station at Irkeshtam -- where Uighurs live on both sides of the frontier -- at peak trading season is probably intended as a warning to the Uighurs and the new authorities in Kyrgyzstan that Beijing will protect its interests. The politically motivated opening or closing of trading stations is a centuries-old tool of Chinese diplomacy.