Friday 23 August 2019

Kyrgyzstan’s ex-president calls for government’s removal after arrest bid fails

Almazbek Atambayev said he fired several shots when police came to arrest him.

(AP Photo/Vladimir Voronin)
(AP Photo/Vladimir Voronin)

By Vladimir Isachenkov, Associated Press

Kyrgyzstan’s ex-president has urged his supporters to push for the removal of the Central Asian nation’s government, following a failed police attempt to arrest him that left one policeman dead and more than 80 people injured.

Almazbek Atambayev, who was in office from 2011 to 2017, accused his successor and one-time protege Sooronbai Jeenbekov of fabricating false criminal charges against him to stifle criticism.

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Almazbek Atambayev (Vyacheslav Oseledko/AP)

He urged his supporters to rally in the capital Bishkek to demand Mr Jeenbekov’s resignation.

Police attempts to arrest Atambayev at his residence outside the capital on Wednesday failed after his supporters rushed to his defence and clashed with police.

A police officer later died of injuries in hospital and more than 50 people were injured, according to official statements.

Atambayev’s supporters took six policemen as hostages, but released them on Thursday.

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Supporters of Almazbek Atambayev clash with special forces troops (Vladimir Voronin/AP)

The violence has raised the threat of a new round of turmoil in the ex-Soviet nation, which borders China and hosts a Russian military air base. Kyrgyzstan’s first two presidents after independence were both driven from office by riots.

Shopping malls and other businesses began shutting down on Thursday ahead of the planned rallies, reflecting fears of widespread looting that accompanied earlier violence.

Atambayev dismissed a slew of charges, including corruption and the expropriation of property, as “absurd”.

He said he fired several shots when police came to arrest him on Wednesday, adding that he “tried not to hit people”.

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Supporters of Almazbek Atambayev confront troops at his residence (Vladimir Voronin/AP)

Officials said police fired only rubber bullets, and the chief of the nation’s security agency voiced regret that he did not order his men to fire to kill.

Kyrgyzstan’s close ally Russia has called for restraint.

Russia’s foreign intelligence chief Sergei Naryshkin warned that the tensions have reached a “dangerous scale” and Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova urged the conflicting parties to show “responsibility and common sense”.

Atambayev travelled to Russia last month and met Vladimir Putin in an apparent attempt to rally support, but the Russian president later reaffirmed that Moscow was committed to working with Mr Jeenbekov.

PA Media

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