Kyrgyzstan’s ousted president vows not to return
April 23. AP. MINSK, Belarus
By YURAS KARMANAU
Kyrgyzstan’s ousted president said from exile Friday he does not intend to return to his homeland as its leader, but that his resignation was invalid because officials there are reneging on a promise to protect his family.
Kurmanbek Bakiyev was deposed in an April 7 uprising that left 85 people dead in the Kyrgyz capital. He fled last week to neighboring Kazakhstan and arrived in the Belarusian capital earlier this week, where he is now staying.
Bakiyev said his resignation, signed before he left Kyrgyzstan, was not in force because interim officials reneged on a promise to protect his relatives.
“I don’t intend to return to Kyrgyzstan as president,” he told reporters in Minsk, but added that “the other side has not fulfilled its conditions. They guaranteed the safety of my family, but my family is being persecuted, therefore I do not recognize my resignation.”
While at his stronghold in the south of Kyrgyzstan, where he went in the heat of the uprising in Bishkek, Bakiyev said he was told by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin that he would not be blamed for the violence of the revolt but would face justice if he tried to regroup and reclaim power militarily.
“There were the threat to me and my relatives and a threat of civil war,” Bakiyev said. “So I submitted my resignation and left.”
Bakiyev said one of his brothers has been kidnapped and that authorities are seeking to prosecute other members of his extended family who have remained in Kyrgyzstan. Some other members of Bakiyev’s close circle have fled to Kazakhstan, and authorities have voiced hope that Kazakh authorities would hand them over.
Kyrgyzstan’s interim government accuses Bakiyev’s brother Zhanybek, the chief of the presidential guards, of issuing the order to fire at protesters in Bishkek.
The U.S. and Russia helped broker the agreement for Bakiyev’s departure from Kyrgyzstan, which hosts a U.S. military base crucial to operations in Afghanistan. Russia, which also has a base in Kyrgyzstan, is irritated at the American military presence in what it sees as its region of influence.
Bakiyev said Moscow fumed when he reversed plans to close the Manas air base last year after Washington offered to almost triple the rent to about $60 million.
“I closed it unilaterally,” Bakiyev said. “But the Americans offered new terms, and then I agreed to resume” the lease, Bakiyev said.
“Although Russia has a similar base, it caused great indignation,” he said.
Bakiyev stopped short, however, of accusing Moscow of supporting the revolt.
“I can’t say that Russian special services had a hand in it. A commission must be formed to investigate,” he said.
Asked how long he planned to remain in Minsk, Bakiyev said he had no plans to form a government in exile, but suggested he felt comfortable as the guest of the country’s authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko. Earlier this week, Bakiyev told a Russian weekly magazine that he plans to open a toy factory in Minsk.
“For kids to be happy, environmentally friendly toys can help develop children’s intellect, bring them joy,” Russky Reporter quoted him as saying.
Meanwhile, Felix Kulov, a former prime minister of Kyrgyzstan and a fierce critic of Bakiyev, said in Moscow that the Kyrgyz people had already rejected Bakiyev.
“For our people he is not a president, and he can only have a negative influence on the situation,” Kulov told journalists in Moscow. “It’s unlikely he’ll leave Belarus. Nobody will let him into another country.”
Kulov, who endorsed Bakiyev for presidency in 2005, but fell out with him after criticizing his policies, said that Bakiyev’s only positive role would be to persuade his brothers to give themselves up to the provisional government.
Interim officials have set presidential elections in Kyrgyzstan for Oct. 10.