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Interview: Kyrgyz Opposition Leader Says 'Criminal Authoritarian Regime' Ousted

Kyrgyz opposition politician Ravshan Jeenbekov expects to be a part of the interim administration.
Kyrgyz opposition politician Ravshan Jeenbekov expects to be a part of the interim administration.
Opposition leader Ravshan Jeenbekov has spent the last four years in the United States in self-imposed political exile and is now returning to Kyrgyzstan.

Jeenbekov says that the interim government needs to stabilize the country and repair the damage done by ousted President Kurmanbek Bakiev.

Jeenbekov, deputy chairman of the Ata-Meken (Fatherland) party, one of the main opposition parties in Kyrgyzstan, spoke today with RFE/RL correspondent Richard Solash.

RFE/RL: What are you doing right now?

Ravshan Jeenbekov:
Right now, in the last four days, I've been involved in the political process in my country. The beginning of this turmoil -- it began in my hometown, one of the main regions of Kyrgyzstan, Talas. I am from Talas and I was coordinating by phone with my father because I have a very good, very strong network in this region.

Why did I do so? Because all leaders of the opposition had been arrested and the demonstrators had no leaders in the region. And I was coordinating this situation over the phone with my father, and my father was one of the leaders in Talas, where the turmoil began.

RFE/RL: Why has this happened in Kyrgyzstan now?

There are maybe two or three main reasons. First of all, Bakiev, who came to the leadership of Kyrgyzstan -- when we brought him to power in 2005 -- by the way, I was one of the politicians who brought Mr. Bakiev to power -- he promised that he would fight corruption, he would fight nepotism, and he would create a democratic country.

But after just one year, he forgot all of his promises, and he changed our country back to the wrong side. He created an authoritarian, criminal regime. He created nepotism, and he changed the regime of our country. We had a little bit of democracy during Akaev's time, but after Bakiev, our country changed from a democracy to an authoritarian criminal regime.

Stabilizing The Country

RFE/RL: What is going on right now in Kyrgyzstan? How is the country being led?

The political situation is now a little bit stabilized. Life is going right. People are quiet now, but there have been so many buildings, organization destroyed because, again, Bakiev arrested all of the leaders and demonstrators had no leaders and they did everything that they wanted to do. They damaged cars, they burned cars, they burned buildings. All of them. Such problems, [a] ton of them now.

But the main problem now for the new government is the social-economic problem. It's the budget of our country. Right now, the deficit of the budget in Kyrgyzstan is about 50 percent of our whole budget. For example, if our budget is 1 billion, we have now about 500 million deficit in our budget. And the main question now is we need to solve this problem.

The second question now is that we are fighting again with President Bakiev. He left the capital, but he went to his home town, Jalal-Abad, and he is trying to create illegal military organizations there.

And today, our new government made a statement that it is the wrong choice by a president, and he needs to come to Bishkek, and he needs to answer for all the killings because during these demonstrations, 78 people were killed by snipers, and about 1,500 people have been wounded. And he needs to be responsible for that.

RFE/RL: Will the government, this interim government, of Roza Otunbaeva -- will it be stable? Do you think that she will be leading the country from now on, or will there be more difficulty in choosing the new leadership?

I think that if our new government -- I mean I am one of them and I am sure that I will be one of them -- if we solve [the] social-economic problems within one or two months, then this government will be stabilized and it can exist maybe for more time. If we cannot solve the social-economic problem, if we cannot punish all the guilty people of the Bakiev authoritarian regime, then we have a big question.

RFE/RL: Do you plan to run for any of the top positions in the government when elections come?

Yes, I think that within six months or within a maximum of one year, we are going to make, we think, [an] absolutely clean election, parliamentary elections, and we are going to change our political regime. We want to create in Kyrgyzstan a parliamentary [government]. I am sure that I would be one of the main persons in my party, I mean in Ata-Meken, and we will fight for a new government, we will fight for the creation of the future government. But now, I think I will be in the temporary, acting government until the parliamentary elections.

Military Question

RFE/RL: Do you think there is a chance that Bakiev could rally enough support, military and otherwise, to return to power?

I am not sure that he can create a big military team of his supporters. But he has money. He has stolen, in our estimate, about $500 [million] to $1 billion. And now, he is trying to involve his relatives, his type, with his military actions, giving them money. But Bakiev has no ideology. That is why I think that he cannot create a big military organization in the south of Kyrgyzstan. But I am sure he will make a little bit of a problem.

RFE/RL: Is the military in the rest of the country, other than the south, behind the opposition leaders?

Yes, absolutely. One of the main opposition leaders, General [Ismail] Isakov, who has been released recently -- he got all the military organizations under control, all the military, because he was very popular in the military, and he is now the acting defense minister of Kyrgyzstan, and he made a statement yesterday that the whole military is under [opposition] control now.

RFE/RL: What do you think about the U.S. military base, Manas? Will that stay open under the new government?

Already, our new prime minister, Roza Otunbaeva, made a statement and she said that the military base will stay in Kyrgyzstan because of Afghanistan, and I think our government will keep to this statement [in the future].

RFE/RL: Do you see Kyrgyzstan, after this has all settled down, moving closer to Russia in terms of economic, military, and other ties?

I think so. Yes, because Russia is now very involved in the political process in Kyrgyzstan, and I think Kyrgyzstan will change, a little bit, its international policy to the Russian side. But as a former minister, as a former member of parliament, of the government, I can say that Kyrgyzstan should deal [with] all Western countries because we need help [from] Western countries, from America, and we will have to work with all of them.

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