Why Is Bakiev in Minsk?

The ousted Kyrgyz president, Kurmanbek Bakiev, fled his country, disappeared for a while and has now popped up in Belarus. But why Minsk?

The Tulip Revolution Mark 2 in Kyrgyzstan seems to have aroused almost no interest compared to the first one in 2005. Is history too repetitive? Are the main protagonists too well known? I am not sure. After the Orange Revolution in Kiev, each subsequent one was keenly analysed. But they do not get top billing anymore.

Russian media has projected the image of Bakiev as that of a bloody dictator who grabbed power, was elected and even re-elected, but went on to install his family members in top positions, to steal millions from the state budget, investments and foreign loans and who, in the end, ordered troops to shoot at a peaceful crowd in order to save his own bacon. His son Maxim is a very successful businessman who reportedly has ties with the notorious Russian oligarch-in-exile Boris Berezovsky.

Looks like despite its allergy to colour revolutions, Moscow takes sides pretty quickly and has already invited for talks one of the Kyrgyz opposition leaders who toppled Bakiev. In 2005 it was the toppled president Askar Akaev who was invited. And he is still in Russia. Now the sides have flipped.

Bakiev in Minsk looked tired and fearful. He met journalists to say that popular discontent was not so strong, as he had been re-elected just eight months ago. Since 6 April, his family, close associates and security officials have been pressured and intimidated. According to Bakiev, what happened was a well-staged coup d'etat and not a grassroots revolution. He said he left in order to prevent civil war between the south (his home territory) and the north, that he resigned to save the lives of those in his government. He also offered to help in any investigation into the events leading up to his downfall.

Lukashenka has given shelter to Bakiev, depicting him as his Kyrgyz colleague, and has assured him that he, his common-law wife and two children, can stay as long as they need. Bolivar :,um, Belarus can carry double. It will stand by its man no matter what Moscow, Washington or Astana think. That's presidential decision.

I am not trying to defend anyone's stand. I am defending the ideas of fairness, equal rights and rule of law. I am surprised not to see any mediators, any international organisations like the OSCE or the UN, any CIS leaders, coming forward to try to resolve the situation and ease tensions in Kyrgyzstan. The guns of the Tulip Revolution Mark 2 have produced no echo.

For many people in Europe, it is probably a piddling detail which name is attached to the title President of Kyrgyzstan. But Central Asia is a crossroads for the interests of the world's great powers. It is an unstable region and it merits constant attention.

So Bakiev is in Minsk, Akaev is in Moscow. But it's not about them or Russia, it's about a different country. Kyrgyzstan still needs help.


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