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Friday 9 August 2019

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Yekaterinburg activist Yaroslav Shirshikov (file photo)

YEKATERINBURG, Russia -- A leader of mass rallies in the Russian Urals city of Yekaterinburg says he was attacked while his home was being searched by police and Federal Security Service (FSB) officers.

Yaroslav Shirshikov wrote in a Facebook post dated August 9 that several masked individuals forced their way into his apartment in the morning and assaulted and strangled him during the search.

Shirshikov added that the FSB and police officers confiscated his computer.

Police have not commented on Shirshikov's claims.

Shirshikov was one of the leaders of mass protests in May against building an Orthodox church in a city park in Yekaterinburg. The protests ended when local authorities decided to scrap plans to build the church there.

During the protest campaign, police arrested almost 100 people. Of those arrested, 33 were sentenced to jail terms ranging from two days to 15 days.

In late June, local police in Yekaterinburg launched an investigation into the unsanctioned demonstrations, calling the protests "mass disturbances."

In July, Shirshikov was charged with libel and issuing public calls for "mass disturbances."

A mugshot of former President Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev that was taken following his arrest on August 8.

BISHKEK -- Former Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev has officially been charged with corruption, a day after he was arrested by police following a deadly standoff with security forces at his residential compound on the outskirts of the capital, Bishkek.

The Birinchi Mai district court said on August 9 that the charge against the 62-year-old former leader is linked to the 2013 illegal release of notorious crime boss Aziz Batukaev, who was convicted for several high-profile crimes -- including the murders of a Kyrgyz lawmaker and an Interior Ministry official.

Kyrgyz Ex-President Detained After Special-Forces Officer Dies In Raid On His Compound
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The court ruled that Atambaev will be held in pretrial detention at the detention center of the State Committee for National Security (UKMK) until August 26.

Atambaev was arrested a day after police and the UKMK special forces failed to capture him in a raid on his sprawling compound in the village of Koi-Tash near Bishkek.

Video Captures Kyrgyz Ex-President's Surrender To Security Forces
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The move to detain Atambaev was sparked by his refusal to obey three subpoenas calling him to the Interior Ministry for questioning in an unspecified investigation.

Under Kyrgyz law, a person who refuses to comply with two subpoenas can be forcibly detained for questioning.

Kyrgyz authorities said earlier that Atambaev faced five counts of criminally abusing his office when he was Kyrgyzstan's president from 2011 to 2017 -- including corruption, abuse of office, and illegally enriching himself.

Violent Resistance

The violent resistance put up by Atambaev and his supporters, which resulted in the death of one special forces officer and left more than 100 others injured, likely means more charges are coming against Atambaev.

The Kyrgyz Prosecutor-General's Office has already launched an investigation into the incident, including addressing who organized the mass unrest, and who is to blame for the murder, hostage-taking, and assault against law enforcement officers that took place at the compound.

A funeral for 47-year-old Colonel Usen Niyazbekov, a father of six who was killed during the resistance by Atambaev and his supporters in the raid on the compound, was held early on August 9, officials said.

Justice officials also continued to deal with two others detained along with Atambaev.

The Interior Ministry said on August 9 that former presidential chief of staff Farid Niyazov had been remanded in custody for 48 hours as a court decides on his possible pretrial detention.

Kunduz Zholdubaeva, a deputy chairwoman of Atambaev's Social Democratic Party (SDPK), told RFE/RL that she was released after investigators questioned her as a witness in a probe on Atambaev's supporters taking several special forces officers hostage at the compound on August 7.

Atambaev's son Seitek told RFE/RL that his brother Seiitbek was questioned by investigators regarding the clashes with special police forces in Koi-Tash.

According to lawyer Zamir Jooshev, Seiitbek Atambaev sustained a fractured leg and an injury to his arm during the clashes.

The Interior Ministry also said that Atambaev's supporters -- the acting chairwoman of the SDPK, Asel Koduranova, lawmaker Irina Karamushkina, and politician Ravshan Jeenbekov -- had been questioned as well in the case.

After Atambaev was taken from his residence in Koi-Tash to nearby Bishkek, hundreds of his supporters marched to the Kyrgyz capital.

Street Skirmishes

Major shopping centers and restaurants in Bishkek had closed their businesses and boarded up windows fearing mass unrest.

Security officials reported several skirmishes late on August 8 between Atambaev's supporters and law enforcement officers, who used tear gas to disperse the protests.

After Deadly Clashes, Cleanup Begins At Atambaev Home
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WATCH: After Deadly Clashes, Cleanup Begins At Atambaev Home

Bishkek city police said on August 9 that about 1,500 people "tried to destabilize the social and political situation, trying to get inside the parliament, shopping centers and supermarkets," blocked some roads and attacked journalists overnight.

They added that 40 people suspected of taking part in the unrest have been detained.

Kyrgyzstan saw a smooth and peaceful transfer of power from Atambaev, a northerner, to southerner Jeenbekov, which was welcomed by the international community after presidential changes -- in 2005 and 2010 -- came after violent rioting.

Once close allies, relations between the two soured after the state prosecutor charged Atambaev on the basis of accusations leveled against him by a legislature loyal to Jeenbekov.

Several of Atambaev's close allies had already been arrested on corruption charges and the two former friends began trading accusations of incompetence and a lack of professionalism.

After parliament on June 27 voted to strip immunity from prosecution for former presidents, the embattled Atambaev retreated to spend most of his time at his residential compound.

His lawyer called the immunity vote unconstitutional, and Atambaev had warned that he had weapons at the compound.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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