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Thursday, 12 December 2019

Kyrgyz president calls for security clampdown as stand-off with opponent turns violent

Reuters , Thursday 8 Aug 2019
Kyrgyz
Supporters of former Kyrgyz president Almazbek Atambayev guard his residence as members of the Kyrgyz special forces undertake a special operation to detain ex-leader Atambayev in the village of Koi-Tash outside the capital Bishkek on August 7, 2019. (Photo: AFP)
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Kyrgyz President Sooronbai Jeenbekov ordered "urgent measures" to maintain the rule of law on Thursday after violent clashes between security forces and supporters of ex-president Almazbek Atambayev, who responded by saying he would march on parliament.

Elite security forces failed to arrest Atambayev - who says corruption allegations against him are politically motivated - at his country house in a surprise raid on Wednesday. Atambayev's supporters gathered en masse to defend him, capturing several security operatives. One operative was killed.

Atambayev and his supporters would rally in Bishkek at 4 p.m. (1000 GMT) and march towards the building which houses both parliament and the president's office, his supporter, lawmaker Irina Karamushkina, told Reuters.

He planned to participate in the march despite risking arrest.

"We cannot leave him here alone," she told Reuters by phone from the house in a village near Bishkek where Atambayev, whose relationship with the president soured after helping him to power in 2017, remained holed up.

"We will hold a rally so that the authorities do not consider us sheep," Kyrgyz independent news website Kloop.kg quoted Atambayev as saying.

Two operatives were still being held captive by Atambayev's supporters, Rakhat Sulaimanov, a spokesman for the State Committee on National Security, told Reuters. Their elite unit retreated from the village after the botched raid, he said.

"The head of state addressed Security Council members, stressing the necessity of carrying out all actions aimed at maintaining the rule of law, peace and security in the country, which calls for urgent measures," Jeenbekov's office said in a statement earlier on Thursday.

It did not give details of what these measures entailed.

Parliament accused Atambayev of corruption and stripped him of immunity from prosecution in June after he fell out with Jeenbekov in the former Soviet republic that is closely allied with Moscow.

"Unfortunately, the authorities have not listened to my calls to act legally," Atambayev said in a video address posted online. The predominantly Muslim Kyrgyzstan is notoriously volatile: two of its consecutive presidents have been deposed by violent riots in 2005 and 2010.

Atambayev, who took part in both revolts, helped to ensure a smooth succession and hoped to retain influence by installing then-ally Jeenbekov as successor in 2017. But within months, Jeenbekov purged Atambayev loyalists from the cabinet.

Late last month, Atambayev visited Moscow to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin, but the latter expressed support for Jeenbekov in a statement made after the meeting.

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