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Kyrgyz President Continues Kazakh War Of Words

Almazbek Atambaev (left) and Nursultan Nazarbaev meet in more cordial times.

BISHKEK -- Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev has criticized Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbaev again amid persistent tension between the neighboring Central Asian countries, saying he will not apologize to the "aged president."

Atambaev said on November 15 that Kyrgyzstan "has been cut off the Eurasian Economic Union at the whim of Kazakhstan's leadership."

Kyrgyzstan joined the Eurasian trade bloc, which also includes Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Armenia, in August 2015.

Bishkek has blamed Kazakhstan for long lines and slow movement of travelers, cars, and truck across their shared border, delays that began when Kazakh authorities stepped up checks at the frontier on October 10.

The bottlenecks began after Atambaev accused Kazakh authorities on October 7 of throwing their support behind Omurbek Babanov, the chief rival of Atambaev's favored successor, Sooronbai Jeenbekov, in Kyrgyzstan's October 15 presidential election.

The accusations came after Nazarbaev, 77, met with Babanov in September.

Kazakh officials have denied any political motive for procedures at the border.

In his remarks on November 15, Atambaev called the situation along the Kyrgyz-Kazakh border "a blockade" and compared it with a time in 2014 when Islam Karimov, then president of neighboring Uzbekistan, ordered the cutoff of natural-gas supplies to Kyrgyzstan.

"In spring 2014, at the whim of a similar aged dictator in another neighboring republic, our southern regions were cut off from natural gas. I remember how our political wirepullers, our lawmakers shouted then saying that Atambaev must go and bend to the aged dictator," Atambaev said, adding that the current situation is very similar. Karimov died in 2016.

"Some people seem to say that Atambaev must bend his knees in front of the rich neighbor and apologize.... It is not Atambaev but those who impertinently meddle in our affairs who must apologize; those who wanted to put their flunky on the chair of the sovereign Kyrgyzstan's president," he said.

"Yes, their flunky will sit. However, not on the presidential chair but in a prison cell."

Although Atambaev did not name the "flunky" by name it was clear that he meant Babanov, who came in second in the election and fled the country days later as investigations were launched against him on suspicion of inciting ethnic hatred.

Atambaev had called Babanov "a foreign country's flunky" on the eve of presidential election.

Jeenbekov won the election and is scheduled to take office on November 24.

Atambaev was limited by the constitution to a single presidential term.