Accessibility links

Kyrgyz Mark Fifth Anniversary Of Revolution

  • RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service

BISHKEK -- Kyrgyzstan has marked the fifth anniversary of a popular revolution that ousted authoritarian President Kurmanbek Bakiev.

President Almazbek Atambaev took part in a solemn ceremony outside the Kyrgyz White House, the main government building in Bishkek, at the site where nearly 100 people were killed by security forces during a mass protest on April 7, 2010.

At least 15,000 people rallied at the White House five years ago to demand the resignation of Bakiev, whom they accused of corruption and abuse of power.

Atambaev, who was held under house arrest as an opposition leader during the unrest in 2010, paid tribute to those killed and wounded during the protest, which led to Bakiev's flight from Kyrgyzstan. He also visited a cemetery where many of the victims are buried.

WATCH: Video from the violent clashes in Talas of April 6, 2010

In a speech outside the White House, Atambaev said that Bakiev created a "monstrous system" and used it to kill opponents including "businessmen, journalists, and parliament deputies" -- a reference to several high-profile killings that occurred during Bakiev's presidency.

After the speech, dozens of demonstrators gathered outside the White House to protest against Atambaev's government, accusing it of failing to adequately tackle corruption, investigate the bloodshed in Bishkek on April 7, 2010,, and channel the benefits of the country's resources to the people.

In his address, Atambaev compared the protests that toppled Bakiev with antigovernment demonstrations in recent years in Tunisia, Syria, Libya, and Ukraine, and accused the ousted president and his supporters of trying to undermine stability in the wake of his political demise.

He asserted that allies of Bakiev orchestrated deadly ethnic violence in southern Kyrgyzstan two months after the April 2010 revolution.

Clashes between ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in the Osh and Jalal-Abad regions killed more than 400 people and drove thousands from their homes.

"There were attempts to organize similar disorder in the country's north, too. There were endless meetings, an economic blockade and even an attempt to seize the parliament and presidential office, but we have managed to preserve the revolution’s major achievements. And we are building a country of free people," Atambaev said.

WATCH: On April 15, 2010, a crowd of opposition protesters disrupted a rally held by Bakiev in the southern city of Osh, one week after antigovernment protests turned violent in the capital.

Atambaev, 58, faces criticism from opponents over close ties with Russia, which Kyrgyzstan is expected to join within weeks in the Eurasian Economic Union. The grouping also includes Kazakhstan, Belarus, and Armenia.

He is under pressure from rights groups and the West to veto legislation forcing foreign-funded NGOs to register as "foreign agents" and a bill critics say would violate the rights of gays and other members of the LGBT community.

Both bills echo laws passed in recent years in Russia under President Vladimir Putin, and Moscow has expressed support for a Kyrgyz "foreign agent" law.

Kyrgyzstan, a mostly Muslim country of 5.6 million with a secular government, was long seen in the West as the most democratic of the former Soviet republics in Central Asia, and it has been the least stable politically.

PHOTO GALLERY: Kyrgyzstan's 2010 revolution

Bakiev himself came to power after President Askar Akaev fled in the face of opposition protests in 2005.

Bakiev and several relatives live in self-imposed exile in Belarus.

In July, a Bishkek court sentenced Bakiev in absentia to life in prison for involvement in the killing of protesters who died in April 2010. His brother Janysh Bakiev, who headed the state bodyguards' service at the time and who is also believed to live in Belarus, was also sentenced.

Belarus has rejected several requests for their extradition.

In October 2014, a Bishkek court sentenced Bakiev's son, Maksim Bakiev, who is currently living in Britain, to life in prison after convicting him of embezzling millions of dollars of state funds.

With reporting by TASS