Kyrgyz president attacks UK for 'hosting a guy who robbed us'

LONDON. July 16. KAZINFORM President Almazbek Atambayev demands return of Maxim Bakiyev, son of former leader, for allegedly stealing millions.

The president of Kyrgyzstan has launched a furious tirade against Britain, claiming the UK has undermined democracy by playing host to a fugitive accused by his government of spiriting millions of dollars from the fragile central Asian state.

In an interview with the Guardian, Almazbek Atambayev said Britain was "hosting a guy who robbed us", in a reference to Maxim Bakiyev, the son of one of Atambayev's predecessors who was ousted in a 2010 revolt.

Bakiyev, who is seeking asylum in Britain, has been accused of channelling millions of dollars of public money into private bank accounts. This year he was sentenced in absentia to 25 years on corruption charges, which his lawyers say are politically motivated.

"Is Britain hosting the kids of [Muammar] Gaddafi or Bashar al-Assad? Why are there double standards against Kyrgyzstan? Britain is saying: 'We want to help with democratic development in Kyrgyzstan.' That's a lie. You're hosting a guy who robbed us. We could use that money to fund fair elections," Atambayev said.

"I spent 20 years in opposition and have always fought for democracy but I didn't know that behind the beautiful words of democracy are very dirty lies. That's terrible. Britain is one of the founders of democracy and it's impossible to understand its actions against us. I am ashamed for Great Britain and didn't expect politics to be this cynical and corrupt. "

The Guardian was unable to reach Bakiyev for comment and the allegations against him have not been substantiated.

Kyrgyzstan has had a chequered road to democracy in the 20 years since the Soviet Union fell apart. Small, remote and not blessed with the mineral wealth of other central Asian republics such as Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, it has lurched from one leader to the next since its founder president was ousted in 2005. Widespread poverty, a dearth of foreign investment and political schisms have not helped. Its position as a gateway to Afghanistan has proved perhaps its only strategic asset over the past decade.

Since 2010, however, the nation has been quietly rebuilding itself, hoping to show the rest of the region that a part of the world notorious for clan politics and authoritarian leaders can function as a modern democracy.

Atambayev, the first elected president since the revolution, who took power in December 2011, said political stability was still his priority: "Without stability, without peace, no other things can be achieved.

"Last year every day there were several protests in Kyrgyzstan, while there are other countries in central Asia that don't see any protests at all. Stability in some countries that don't see protests is like the stability of a hidden landmine that ticks towards an imminent explosion."

The country still has problems with corruption and human rights abuses. Amnesty International says ethnic Uzbeks have been persecuted by the authorities after riots in 2010 that left more than 400 dead. The government acknowledges it has not brought sufficient prosecutions.

More recently, the Boston bombing suspects, the Tsarnaev brothers, turned out to have lived as children in Tokmok, a town about 30 miles east of the capital, Bishkek, and a place that still hosts a Chechen diaspora. "I was disappointed," Atambayev said of his reaction to the news of the connection. "But they left Kyrgyzstan when they were teenagers. Here they were ordinary students and received a secular education."

Kyrgyzstan, like its central Asian neighbours, is predominantly Muslim. Some have suggested this may make it a recruitment target for Islamist extremists.

Atambayev says democracy is the best bulwark against Islamism. "Yes, I think it will be a problem in central Asian countries," he said.

"Many ordinary people in central Asia turn to Islam because they live under corrupt regimes. The way forward is to build at least one truly democratic country in central Asia so people in the region can see there's a choice between a secular, corrupt regime - which is often authoritarian - and a dictatorial, radical Islamic regime. There's a third way - the building of a truly democratic country. There is no other way: we see trillions of dollars spent in Afghanistan and the Taliban is still on its way back to power."


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