Former Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev spoke to journalists at a Russian air base in the town of Kant near Bishkek on July 25, relaying his standpoint that the time to mend fences with his successor, Sooronbai Jeenbekov, "has passed", RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service reported.
The briefing took place after Atambayev held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 24 in Moscow. After the meeting, Putin called for Kyrgyzstan to unite around Jeenbekov in a video statement. Atambayev does not appear to be satisfied with Putin’s reaction.
"Putin's call to unite was just a wish. It does not matter who says that we need to unite...Vladimir Putin or, for instance, [US President Donald] Trump.... There must be an exact moment for that. I told Putin that such a moment is gone,” Atambayev told journalists, adding: “I told him that we can try and the Kyrgyz people might unite if Jeenbekov makes steps toward that. But the truth is, as you see, Jeenbekov had to start uniting people from the very first days of his leadership."
The ex-president also clarified that his trip was not a sign of Russia’s interference in internal Kyrgyz politics.
"Vladimir Putin is my close friend. He is very concerned about what is happening in our country. He invited me to Moscow two or three times before but I refused. In the end, I agreed to go. I did not initiate the trip," Atambayev said.
He also reiterated that he will not comply with the interior ministry’s subpoena - he has so far refused to obey three subpoenas calling for Atambayev to surrender himself as a witness in an unspecified criminal investigation.
He remains embroiled in a bitter row with successor Jeenbekov, who on taking office in late 2017 was seen by many observers as likely to become Atambayev’s puppet. Kyrgyzstan's deputy interior minister visited the residential compound of Atambayev in the village of Koi-Tash near the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek on July 22. The visit came after Atambayev refused to obey the three subpoenas. Under Kyrgyz law, refusal to obey two subpoenas in a row makes a person liable for forcible detention for questioning.
Atambayev worked closely with Russia during his six years in office and was responsible for bringing Kyrgyzstan into the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). Atambayev is likely hoping that Russia will put pressure on Jeenbekov.
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