Outgoing president of Kyrgyzstan continues war of words with Kazakhstan

Kyrgyzstan President Almazbek Atambayev (official photo)

BISHKEK (TCA) — Outgoing Kyrgyzstan President Almazbek Atambayev has criticized Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev again amid persistent tension between the neighboring Central Asian countries, saying he will not apologize to the “aged president”, RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service reports.

Atambayev said on November 15 that Kyrgyzstan “has been cut off the Eurasian Economic Union at the whim of Kazakhstan’s leadership.”

Kyrgyzstan joined the Eurasian trade bloc, which also includes Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Armenia, in August 2015.

Bishkek has blamed Kazakhstan for long lines and slow movement of travelers, cars, and trucks across their shared border, delays that began when Kazakh authorities stepped up checks at the frontier on October 10.

The bottlenecks began after Atambayev accused Kazakh authorities on October 7 of throwing their support behind Omurbek Babanov, the chief rival of Atambayev’s favored successor, Sooronbai Jeenbekov, in Kyrgyzstan’s October 15 presidential election.

The accusations came after Nazarbayev, 77, met with Babanov in September.

Kazakh officials have denied any political motive for procedures at the border.

In his remarks on November 15, Atambayev called the situation along the Kyrgyz-Kazakh border “a blockade” and compared it with a time in 2014 when Islam Karimov, then president of neighboring Uzbekistan, ordered the cutoff of natural-gas supplies to Kyrgyzstan.

“In spring 2014, at the whim of a similar aged dictator in another neighboring republic, our southern regions were cut off from natural gas. I remember how our political wirepullers, our lawmakers shouted then saying that Atambayev must go and bend to the aged dictator,” Atambayev said, adding that the current situation is very similar. Karimov died in 2016.

“Some people seem to say that Atambayev must bend his knees in front of the rich neighbor and apologize…. It is not Atambayev but those who impertinently meddle in our affairs who must apologize; those who wanted to put their flunky on the chair of the sovereign Kyrgyzstan’s president,” he said.

“Yes, their flunky will sit. However, not on the presidential chair but in a prison cell,” Atambayev added.

Although Atambayev did not name the “flunky” by name it was clear that he meant Babanov, who came in second in the election and fled the country days later as investigations were launched against him on suspicion of inciting ethnic hatred.

Atambayev had called Babanov “a foreign country’s flunky” on the eve of presidential election.

Jeenbekov won the election and is scheduled to take office on November 24.

Atambayev was limited by the constitution to a single presidential term.

Sergey Kwan


Sergey Kwan has worked for The Times of Central Asia as a journalist, translator and editor since its foundation in March 1999. Prior to this, from 1996-1997, he worked as a translator at The Kyrgyzstan Chronicle, and from 1997-1999, as a translator at The Central Asian Post.
Kwan studied at the Bishkek Polytechnic Institute from 1990-1994, before completing his training in print journalism in Denmark.

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