Cases of cash paid for Kyrgyz unrest – former president

Criminals and unemployed youths were paid in suitcases of cash to start bashing people up and set everything on fire, shared Askar Akayev, the country's president from 1990 to 2005, with RT.

RT: What proof is there that your successor Kurmanbek Bakiyev is provoking a civil war between north and south Kyrgyzstan?

Askar Akayev: There are numerous pieces of evidence that the two brothers – Ahmad and Janysh Bakiyev – are now in the south of Kyrgyzstan. There are numerous pieces of evidence that they have paid criminals for the provocations that have led to this fratricidal conflict between the Kyrgyz and the Uzbeks. You may remember that immediately after his overthrow, Bakiyev, who was staying in his home village in the south, called on his compatriots – southerners – to fight against the north. But he received no support from his compatriots in the south.

I am convinced that Bakiyev’s supporters are responsible for the interethnic division. This has been proved by the shooting of Black Aibek, a criminal boss, an Uzbek, in the south, who was working for the Bakiyevs. This happened in Jalal-Abad a couple of weeks ago. This is further proof of the involvement of the Bakiyevs in the provocations that have led to the current fratricidal war.

RT: Are you saying Bakiyev’s family is using its resources, its money to foment revolution?

AA: Absolutely so. It’s a well-known fact that when the April revolution broke out, the Bakiyevs carried away all the cash resources from banks and from the finance ministry. They took them to the south of Kyrgyzstan. And now they are using these resources. And they are paying not for the provocations using criminals alone. My friends gave me a call from Osh. They said that a couple of days before the bloodshed in Osh, they felt something was wrong and stayed at home having closed all the doors, because cash was being handed out to the unemployed youth in suitcases. In other words, they were giving money to the young to stir them up. Sadly, that was the case.

RT: What was the going rate for a protestor?

AA: I don’t have the figures, but you know, for our struggling region – the average salary in Kyrgyzstan is less than US$100 [per month]. $100 is enough for a person to start bashing people up and setting everything on fire.

RT: An investigation set up by your successor Kurmanbek Bakiyev said that you were not personally responsible for any corruption, but for example it was said that two thirds of the revenues went not to the state budget but to members of your family. Was there any corruption during your presidency?

AA: You know, saying that there was no corruption in the days of my rule would be inappropriate. Corruption has always existed. And it is likely to be always the case in the future, but a successful state definitely keeps corruption to a minimum. We were also fighting corruption, and I can’t say we were a great success. But we were fighting it. To compare the corruption levels, I would like to share the opinion of the current deputy head of the interim government, Mr. Beknazarov. He is a robust opponent of mine, so you may trust him. He was one of those who organized the coup of 2005. This is what he said about the situation in the country: “the corruption level we are facing today could not have even been thought of in the time of Akayev’s rule.” This has been said by the closest associate of Bakiyev and a vehement opponent of mine. So, you can see that corruption has spread greatly over the past five years. Corruption brought money into the pockets of one single family – that of the Bakiyevs. It’s no secret that the son of Bakiyev, Maxim Bakiyev took control over all the state budget and reserve funds of Kyrgyzstan, having set up an investment and resources agency. This is a well-known fact. The Russian loan of US$300 million given out last year has been spent on the international markets. As you know, Maxim Bakiyev is now wanted by Italian investigators, together with his American associate Yevgeniy Gurevich who managed to get billions of dollars out of Italy with the help of the $300 million via the set up agency.

RT: Do you agree that the violence is escalating, as international agencies in Kyrgyzstan say, and how could this escalation of violence be stopped?

AA: Indeed, the past two days have been quiet. This makes me glad of course, but I don’t think the interim government is completely in control of the situation. The interethnic conflict might flare up again; it would only take one “match”. I think there was a good reason for the interim government to request peacekeepers from Russia and the CSTO states.

Our priority task right now should be to extinguish this flame of enmity. It is very likely that we will need CSTO peacekeepers to do that. After that is done the country has to do everything it can to find a way out of the situation. Nobody will do that for us. It is very important to stop the bloodshed, prevent the conflict from escalating. But once this is done we will face the difficult task of reconciliation. We need to build trust. It is still too early to talk about consent in the society. We have to resolve our social problems first. Winter is coming in six months and winter is harsh in our region. Two cities – Osh and Jalal-Abad – have been burned down. We will need humanitarian and financial aid to rebuild houses so people will have electricity and a roof over their head in winter. It would be impossible to resolve the other problems without that.

So Kyrgyzstan is facing a very hard task. I’d like to take my chance to address the world community and tell them that Kyrgyzstan is in trouble and needs aid.

RT: What will happen to the strategic Manas airbase in Kyrgyzstan, which both Russia and America are interested in using as a supply base for the war in Afghanistan?

AA: The US base in Manas was opened during my presidential term. I think the US acted as a true world leader when former president Bush had addressed the world community with a call to form an anti-terrorist coalition. They gained global support and we thought Kyrgyzstan had to make a contribution. Kyrgyzstan also had a problem with Afghan armed groups in 1999. That was why we allowed the US to use the Manas airport. I’d like to stress that it was not done on a monetary basis. The US never paid for the use of that base during my term in office. They paid for navigation services. The airport is furnished with cutting-edge navigation equipment made by the French company, Thomson. The services provided were the same as would be in any international airport: takeoff and landing guidance etc. I’m saying this to the people who accuse me and my family of corruption. You can check: the US never paid a cent for using the base.

We viewed it as Kyrgyzstan’s contribution to the global battle against terrorism. It was in our interests. It was President Bakiyev who started the trade negotiations. Some people say that Moscow was involved in this matter. They call it “the hand of Moscow”. There is no “hand of Moscow”. I remember it from my term in office. No one ever mentioned such a thing. There was the US base and the Russian base in Kant. There was no antagonism and no problems. Then Bakiyev came and started bargaining. The US generals put it right: Bakiyev’s policy was similar to what one would do at an Asian bazaar. I think it was his fault that the US and Russia’s interests collided over the bases. He wanted to get more money from both Russia and the US. He tried to intimidate Washington, threatening to shut down the base. They paid him more. Indeed, they started paying during Bakiyev’s term. I think all that money went to his clan.

The base was free of charge during my term in office. Look it up. So of course I am offended when people say I was corrupt just like Bakiyev. The base will work for as long as Afghanistan poses a terrorist threat. So I welcome the interim government’s decision to honor Kyrgyzstan’s international agreements. If the government doesn’t conduct the same marketplace policy – because it is made up of the people who brought Bakiyev to power five years ago – then everything will be fine and I’m sure there will be no argument between Russia and the US over the bases. The Russian political scientist, Professor Knyazev, described Bakiyev’s policy very well when he said Bakiyev was ready to dance for anyone for a penny. The penny in this case would be a $100 million from the US and $500 million from Russia for a promise to close the base. This was one of the reasons for his political downfall, I think. He was hated by his own people for being authoritarian and aspiring to become a Khan. On the other hand, the world community turned its back on him for cheating. Things like that are not tolerated in international politics.