Almazbek Atambayev has been arrested. What's next?
On August 8, ex-President of Kyrgyzstan Almazbek Atambayev called on security forces "not to shoot at their own people." On Wednesday evening, operation of the Kyrgyz special forces to seize former head of state has failed. As a result of the operation in Atambaev’s residence in the village of Koy-Tash, one member of the special forces has died, while 43 more people from both sides were injured.
President Sooronbay Jeenbekov returned from his vacation and held a meeting of the Security Council in Bishkek, where he stated that Atambayev "outrageously violated the country's constitution by not allowing to conduct legal investigative measures." In turn, Atambayev announced the beginning of a rally near the Mediaforum building in the capital of Kyrgyzstan. Experts believe that if political crisis cannot be resolved, third revolution in the republic may begin.
Political crisis began with the conflict between ex-president Almazbek Atambayev and current head of the republic Sooronbay Jeenbekov, and led to arrests of dozens of officials. At the end of June, the Jogorku Kenesh (parliament) initiated a series of charges against Almazbek Atambayev, depriving him of ex-president status and immunity that comes from it. Parliamentarians also demanded General Prosecutor's Office of the republic to initiate criminal case against Atambayev and bring him to justice. Decision to detain Atambayev was explaied by his refusal to come for interrogation as a witness. Former president of the country ignored authorities' demands three times. Atambayev himself called accusations against him "absurd."
Operation aimed at seizing Atambaev’s residence began on the evening of August 7. Members of special forces surrounded the house of former president, disconnecting it from power sources and the internet. They used noise grenades and other special means to disperse the crowd, as well as machine guns with rubber bullets. Helicopter flew over the house. Atambayev's supporters were taken by surprise, but they still gathered and fought back with stones. Firearms were used. Supporters of ex-president were able to hold on and even take six security officials hostage. Unfortunately, there were some casualties. Deputy commander of the special forces, Lt. Col. Usen Niyazbekov, was killed. 47 people were injured - 22 employees of the State Committee for National Security, two employees of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, 23 civilians.
On the morning of August 8, negotiations between government officials and Atambayev's supporters have begun. Kursan Asanov, deputy head of the Kyrgyz Ministry of Internal Affairs, demanded to release hostages. President Sooronbai Jeenbekov held urgent meeting of the Security Council. According to rumors, second attempt to storm Atambaev’s residence is being planned. Former president himself urged security officials to "think better and not go against their own people." In particular, he noted that the attempt to detain him was illegal, and called on the authorities to stop these actions, because, in his opinion, this situation will lead to "horrible consequences".
“In order to detain Atambayev, lock him up and kill him, authorities are ready to shoot civilians, their own people. All of this is against the law! Kyrgyz people will never be surrender, we won't become slaves of the ruling clan. Once again, I call on authorities to change their minds," Atambayev said. Meanwhile, Atambaev’s supporters, who were holding six commandos in ex-president’s residence, issued an ultimatum to the authorities. They agree to release special forces' members, but only if police forces will leave.
At the time of writing, supporters of ex-president were arriving in Koy-Tash. According to eyewitnesses, people travel from Issyk-Kul, Talas and Naryn. They are building new barricades, strengthening existing barriers around Atambayev's estate. Additional special forces soldiers have been transferred from Bishkek to Koy-Tash.
As head of the Eurasian Analytical Club Nikita Mendkovich wrote on his Facebook page, Jeenbekov is losing". "Policemen are retreating, Atambayev’s supporters have stockpiles of weapons and ammunition, they're clearly ready to protect him and they have reinforcements. Using force is impossible without military operations. All of Moscow’s efforts to reconcile parties have proven to be fruitless. It seems that the only way out of this situation is early elections,” expert believes.
“Ultimate goals of pressure against Atambayev are clear - to intimidate him and his supporters, to force both him and them to not participate in the upcoming parliamentary elections, which will be held next year, and, of course, receive guarantees from him that he won't use compromising evidence against the current government and his opponents. He has more than enough dossiers to do that,” Igor Pankratenko, deputy director general of the Center for Strategic Assessments and Forecasts, told Vestnik Kavkaza.
It's possible that decision to arrest Atambayev is associated with riots at the Solton-Sary gold ore deposit in the Naryn region. Local residents staged a protest demanding to close Chinese mining company Zhong Ji Mining. The fact is that Naryn protests against also had another demand - to release former Prime Minister Sapar Isakov, who was arrested for corruption during modernization of the Bishkek thermal power station.
According to experts, divide in political elite may lead to confrontation between the north and the south. There is a threat of third revolution in Kyrgyzstan. Responsibility for this situation lies with Atambayev and Jeenbekov. They put personal ambitions much higher than interests of the nation. Kyrgyzstan has experienced similar shocks twice. For the third time, he follows the same path due to the fact that leaders don't know how to agree among themselves.