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Kyrgyz Ex-President Bakiev: 'I Don't Think It Is About Me'

Kurmanbek Bakiev at a news conference in Minsk
Former Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev fled into exile in Belarus last month in the aftermath of a violent uprising that unseated his regime and saw an interim leadership installed. In an interview with Ainura Asankojoeva of RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, Bakiev rejects any connection to the continuing unrest in the country’s south, as well as rumors that he is trying to return to power with the help of his brother and son.

RFE/RL: You have been abroad for almost one month, but I think you do receive news from Kyrgyzstan, especially from your hometown [Teyit, near Jalal-Abad.] What do you think about the situation there?

Kurmanbek Bakiev: I receive news [from Kyrgyzstan]. It was very sad to hear about the events in my hometown. It is right to call it an unlawful act. Nobody expected it. They set fire to the home of a 90-year-old man, who is a veteran of the Great Patriotic War. What was his crime? Or my late brother Jusup [Bakiev], who passed away in 2006, who spent nine years building his house. It wasn't a big house, it wasn't like other businessmen's houses. Why did they burn his house? What did he do wrong?

[My other brother] Kanybek [Bakiev] served as head of the local administration before I became president. He was elected for a second term. When his term expired, he left his position and became unemployed. Why did they set fire to his house? The unrest and disorder are continuing. I don't know if it is members of the provisional government or local officials who want to settle their accounts -- nobody is thinking about the country, about the people.

RFE/RL: I would like to quote a comment from our website. A reader wrote about the events in Teyit and Jalal-Abad: "I don't think it's right, but people have done it to show other leaders that if they follow the footsteps of Akaev and Bakiev, their punishment will be even worse." Perhaps you know that two more people were killed and 70 people wounded yesterday [May 19] in Jalal-Abad. The provisional government stated that this time the disturbances were organized by Bakiev's supporters. What do you say to that?

Bakiev: Now the provisional government blames whatever happens on Bakiev. They have no other choice because they are incapable of governing the country. The Kyrgyz people know all these members of the provisional government all too well -- where they used to work and how they worked. They can't govern. They need to think about the people and care about them. I am not going to talk about the economy, which has been rolled back by several years now. They can't provide security for the country and our citizens. To provide security, they need to end this unrest.

RFE/RL: Our listeners and readers of our website are writing in to say that the Bakiev family is secretly funding the attempts to organize riots and uprisings against the interim government.

Bakiev: Criminal cases have been launched against all of my brothers. They have to hide out, they haven't been able to contact each other, and you are talking about distributing money to organize riots. How could they do that? It's not true, they’re lying.

RFE/RL: Since we're talking about your family, a recording has appeared on the Internet allegedly of a conversation between your son Maksim and your brother Janysh. Maybe you've heard it too, and if you believe what they say, your son and your brother are preparing a coup, a plan to seize power. Are you in contact with them?

Bakiev: I must say openly, I am not in contact with any of the brothers now, because I know if I contact them -- whether my sons or my brothers -- then all the cases that you're talking about will be dumped on me. So I have not made contact with any of them.

RFE/RL: In this audio recording, Maksim says that "the chief," meaning you, should return to power but that you are supposedly against that.

Bakiev: When I was leaving Kyrgyzstan, my home village, during my [telephone] conversation with Putin and Nazarbaev we agreed that I would leave to prevent a war between the north and the south. I said I would leave after talking with these two colleagues. I said that if my family and I were not going to be persecuted, if the situation in the country was stabilized, I would agree to leave Kyrgyzstan. Based on that, I left. But what happened after that?

RFE/RL: Where are your sons Maksim and Marat?

Bakiev: Let's not talk about my sons. My family is in a very difficult situation now.

RFE/RL: But I think many people in Kyrgyzstan have heard [the audio recording] on the Internet. If what they say is true, are you going to try and stop them?

Bakiev: Of course, as I've said, there are no conditions, no possibility for a return to Kyrgyzstan, and there are no such plans. I've also said that it was an armed coup which claimed the lives of innocent people. Over time, all will become clear. I believe it will. It takes time. If the boys are talking about something and if they're going to do something, I suppose they may as well have such thoughts. But I've also said before that I have no such thoughts.

RFE/RL: What can you say to your supporters in Jalal-Abad in the south to avoid bloodshed?

Bakiev: Well, what can I say? I would appeal to all of the Kyrgyz people: first, whatever you do, do it wisely. I would call for tolerance. I would urge members of the provisional government and local officials to be patient. Let us work reasonably and not succumb to emotion. If you succumb to emotion, the situation will deteriorate and further clashes may occur. To avoid that, you need to take a pause.

It is wrong to make decisions under the influence of emotions. I hear about what is happening in Bishkek with the support of members of the provisional government, about how the property of medium-sized businesses is being taken away -- in short, intimidation. Those who came to power used to talk about democracy, but now there isn't a trace of democracy there.

RFE/RL: You said you are not going back to Kyrgyzstan. Can you appeal to your supporters now and say, 'Calm down, there is no need to defend me'?

Bakiev: I don't think anybody is defending my interests in Kyrgyzstan now. I don't think it’s about me. I have no other source of information except the Internet. People do not take to the streets to protect me or my interests. I think people take to the streets because they are unhappy with their local leadership and the provisional government.