Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka raised eyebrows at a meeting with journalists
on December 11 when he called on Kyrgyz authorities to pay a pension to exiled former leader Kurmanbek Bakiev.
Delegates attending a conference for media editors from Georgia, CIS countries, and the Baltic states in Minsk had reportedly been told not to mention Bakiev when meeting Lukashenka, who invited the ex-president to stay in Belarus after he was ousted from power in April 2010.
However, the Belarusian leader then startled hacks by actually broaching the subject himself
"Do you need Bakiev?" Lukashenka asked when he was introduced to a Kyrgyz journalist. "The man has gone away. He is living [here]. He's got excellent children."
The Belarusian president went on to praise the efforts of Bakiev's kids to improve their command of the local language before urging the Kyrgyz government to send their ex-president a bit of cash.
"Of course, [Bakiev] will not die of hunger; we will not allow it," Lukashenka said. "But it is necessary to transfer a pension."
There are many in Kyrgyzstan who would balk at the idea of paying a state pension to Bakiev, who has lived in self-imposed exile since his government was toppled
in April 2010.
Given that he is wanted in Bishkek on corruption charges and for allegedly issuing orders to shoot antigovernment protesters when he was president, a lot of Kyrgyz would presumably resent his receiving the monthly pension of 80,000 soms ($1,700) that former President Roza Otunbaeva currently gets.
In fact, according to RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, Bakiev would not be eligible for a presidential pension because he has not been given the status of an "ex-president."
Apparently, he is not even entitled to the average state pension of around 4,270 soms ($90) per month because he never submitted the relevant documentation for a claim to be processed.
A Kyrgyz official also said there is "no legal basis" to give Bakiev a pension because he now resides permanently in Belarus and left Kyrgyzstan before he reached pensionable age.
Despite not being entitled to a pension, it is unlikely that Bakiev is actually hurting for dough as he and his family are said to be worth millions.
Russia claims that the Bakievs stole most of a $450 million
grant and loan it gave Kyrgyzstan some years ago.
The Kyrgyz authorities also say that Bakiev's clan laundered more than $1 billion through AsiaUniversalBank
before his regime was ousted in 2010.
Moreover, in February this year, real-estate agents in Belarus told RFE/RL that Bakiev was buying a house
in Minsk's affluent Raubichi district for an estimated $2 million.
Despite Lukashenka's protestations, therefore, it's safe to say that Bakiev is probably not in dire need of a monthly annuity from the Kyrgyz state.
-- Coilin O'Connor