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Atambayev’s Visit to the Kremlin: Possible Development Scenarios of the Situation

«The fact that Almazbek Atambayev flew to Moscow through the Russian airbase in Kant, where a private plane sent by the Russian side was waiting for him, was perceived as direct interference in the internal affairs of the country. It turns out that there is an uncontrollable zone in Kyrgyzstan, from where in case of litigation, one can fly out without an obstacle from the Kyrgyz authorities,» analyst Nursultan Akylbek notes.

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Atambayev was accepted at the highest level in Moscow. However, the outcome of the meeting cannot be called too optimistic for the former president of Kyrgyzstan. Photo: Vladimir Voronin / Zanoza.

Almazbek Atambayev, while being the president of Kyrgyzstan and after, always kept mentioning about how he had built an independent foreign policy under his rule, how neighboring countries began to reckon with the position of Kyrgyzstan and how hardly he had stopped any attempt to interfere in the internal affairs of Kyrgyzstan [1]. However, on July 24, the former president of Kyrgyzstan flew to Moscow through the Russian military airbase in Kant to decide his fate in the light of the protracted conflict with the current president.

Russia’s influence on the internal political processes of the former Soviet Union countries has not been a secret for anyone. For the last 28 years of independence, there are still people from the Soviet nomenclature in the leadership of the Central Asian countries, who consider nothing shameful in solving their internal political problems through Moscow. Kyrgyz politicians of various ranks are trying in every way to underline the presence of support from the Kremlin.

If before the intervention took place behind the scenes, through closed channels, then in this case everything was uncovered. At the same time, it cannot be said that the internal political situation in Kyrgyzstan required the intervention of Russia.

The fact that the conflict between incumbent President Sooronbay Jeenbekov and former President Almazbek Atambayev would not be resolved without the intervention of Moscow was already clear after Sooronbay Jeenbekov’s unexpected stop in Moscow on his way back to Bishkek from Switzerland [2]. Official Bishkek and Moscow explained this meeting in general words about the need to discuss deeper integration processes and speed up in the implementation of agreements that were already reached. If we consider that in recent years, Kyrgyzstan and Russia have no serious joint projects for which the meeting of the two presidents was required; no one believed the official version of the meeting.

However, the subsequent visit of Atambayev to Moscow at the invitation of the Russian side caused a tidal wave among the public of Kyrgyzstan. The fact that Almazbek Atambayev, who had five charges from the parliament of Kyrgyzstan, flew to Moscow through the Russian airbase in Kant, where a private plane sent by the Russian side was waiting for him, was perceived as direct interference in the internal affairs of the country. It turns out that there is an uncontrolled zone in Kyrgyzstan, from where in case of litigations one can fly out without an obstacle from the Kyrgyz authorities.

Almazbek Atambayev and his supporters on the board of specially sent aircraft for the flight to Moscow via the air base in Kant. Photo: from the personal page of Facebook Kunduz Zholdubaeva.

Atambayev’s entourage widely covered his visit to Moscow, underlining Almazbek Atambayev’s good relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The course and outcomes of the meeting

Atambayev was really accepted at the highest level. However, the outcomes of the meeting cannot be called too optimistic for the former president of Kyrgyzstan.

After the meeting, Putin’s comments differed dramatically. Vladimir Putin was as restrained as possible, and stressing that stability in Kyrgyzstan was in the interests of the people. At the same time, in the conflict between Atambayev and Jeenbekov, Putin openly urged to unite around the current president. In order to avoid accusations of interference in the internal affairs of Kyrgyzstan, the Kremlin voiced a request to terminate the criminal case against Almazbek Atambayev through a Kremlin pool journalist.

So, the Kremlin pool journalist Dmitry Smirnov wrote about Putin’s request to stop the criminal case against Almazbek Atambayev. Although Putin did not voice such a request in an official speech to journalists.

“Putin accepted Atambayev in the Kremlin and asked to stop his criminal offense: I believe that Kyrgyzstan has experienced quite serious internal political challenges. This should be stopped precisely in the interests of the people. The country is needed in political stability.”

Screenshot of Dmitry Smirnov’s tweet: Putin accepted Atambayev in the Kremlin and asked to stop his criminal offense: I believe that Kyrgyzstan has experienced quite serious internal political challenges. This should be stopped precisely in the interests of the people. The country is needed in political stability. Source: twitter.com/dimsmirnov175

Atambayev also commented on the meeting with Putin. Based on his comments, Atambayev’s demand for the current government, which he voiced at the meeting with Putin, becomes clear:

  1. An objective examination of cases by a court of his colleagues, who are being targeted in the investigation concerning the reconstruction of Central Heating and Power Plant and corruption cases;
  2. Prevent persecution of his supporters;
  3. The return of the party SDPK, which was recently registered on another person, Sagynbek Abdyrakhmanov, in the register of the Ministry of Justice of Kyrgyzstan;
  4. To give the opportunity to participate in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

Atambayev said, “We will solve our internal problems on our own,” but completely contradicts himself, stating that Putin will voice his requirements listed above to President Jeenbekov.

Only after the fulfillment of these requirements, Atambayev will change opposition rhetoric and expressed willingness to help the current government in the implementation of national projects.

Atambayev has several times repeated the phrase about the need for the current government to return to the legal field in order to get out of the domestic political crisis. As president, he did not always act within the legal framework in the reprisal of his political opponents. Now his own system acts against himself.

It should be noted that Atambayev’s policy of double standards could be seen in his current visit to Moscow.

Almazbek Atambayev, while being a president, had reacted very emotionally on the meeting of presidential candidate Omurbek Babanov with the Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, accusing the latter of direct interference in the internal affairs of Kyrgyzstan. As a result, the border between the two countries was temporarily closed, and Atambayev’s statement brought enormous damage to business. Relations with Kazakhstan returned to the right direction only under the current president Zheenbekov.

What conclusions can be drawn from the visit of Atambayev to Moscow?

  1. All the opposition rhetoric of Atambayev, which began on March 31 of last year, turned out to be a pure bluff. His criticism of the current government was aimed at saving his associates, and not at protecting the interests of the state. Moreover, he criticized the judiciary, which he “reformed” himself, law enforcement agencies, which he used for political purposes and the power that he brought himself.
  2. Atambayev’s visit cannot be considered successful. He used the last trump card in the face of the Kremlin unsuccessfully, having achieved only guarantees of personal security and possibly some associates. Such meetings will not be held anymore.
  3. In his address to the media, Vladimir Putin sided with the current president, Sooronbay Jeenbekov, hinting to Atambayev that the escalation on the internal political situation in the country should be stopped.
  4. The public considered the visit to Moscow as a betrayal of the country’s sovereignty and determined Atambayev’s complete political bankruptcy and his departure from big politics. The conflict with Sooronbay Jeenbekov did not represent any threat to the state and did not require the intervention of Moscow, but represented a threat to his personal freedom. Moreover, here he chose to put his own interests above the state, exposing all the weaknesses and dependence of a small country to a stronger power.

What will happen next?

  1. The conflict between the current and former president will continue. Atambayev’s visit to Moscow will possibly put an end on Atambayev’s fate, but will not finish the conflict itself. In essence, Almazbek Atambayev’s trip to Moscow is considered ineffective. His colleagues are in prison and it is unlikely that the authorities will release them. Atambayev wants a revenge. He will bet on the parliamentary elections and continue the confrontation with the current government until the elections. For this to happen, he has all the necessary resources, but the implementation of his plans is extremely doubtful, since he himself is the main obstacle to achieving results. Only when Atambayev officially leaves politics there will appear opportunities for his party and his associates, consisting mainly of young politicians. This is explained by the fact that Atambayev himself is the chief architect of the current system and all existing problems of the state are connected with his name. As a result, criticism from his side towards the current government is not increasing supporters.
  2. Criminal prosecution against Atambayev under the influence of Moscow will come to a standstill and will drag on as long as possible. This will automatically annul the political decision of the Jogorku Kenesh, which declared the impeachment of Atambayev, put forward six accusations and will strike the General Prosecutor’s Office, which confirmed five of the six charges. In the absence of a proper reaction from the side of the parliament to the intervention of Kremlin (there will be no reaction) and the termination of the criminal case against Atambayev, everything should end with the dissolution of the parliament and resignation of the prosecutor general. It should be noted that the early parliamentary elections are in the interest of the current government.
  3. The open intervention of Moscow showed the weakness of the current government, which allowed Atambayev to visit Moscow. The authorities should reconsider their methods of conducting foreign policy when interacting with leading powers and they have no choice but to take independent actions. In reality, Russia has a strong influence on the Central Asian region, however, neighboring countries are trying to maneuver and do not allow such open interference in their internal political processes. It is also unfavorable for Russia to interfere in the internal affairs of its allies, since this will negatively affect its reputation in the international arena.
  4. It is important for the authorities to close the topic of Atambayev as soon as possible. They are losing the information warfare, and people have not seen any real results. The current government can return the reparation losses only by initiating systemic reforms. The policy of the current government should be different from the policy of Atambayev. Now we can say that the system formed by Atambayev is still working, the same judges, the same methods of work of law enforcement agencies, etc. Only the economic recovery and reform of the judiciary and law enforcement agencies will allow dismissing the subject of Atambayev in a quick manner.

It is important for politicians of different calibers to understand that the desire to get support from outside does not give the former guarantees of success within their own country. Another generation is growing, with a different mindset, for which a special approach is needed.

The opinions expressed in the article do not reflect the position of the editorial or donor.  

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