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Embattled Atambaev Holds Talks With Putin In Moscow Amid Pressure In Kyrgyzstan

Former Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev (right) with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow in 2017.
Former Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev (right) with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow in 2017.

BISHKEK -- Former Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev, who faces five counts of criminally abusing his office when he held power from 2011 to 2017, has held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

The Kremlin's website posted a video statement by Putin on July 25, in which the president said that he and Atambaev met a day earlier to discuss the situation in the former Soviet republic and the Central Asian region as a whole.

"Kyrgyzstan has faced pretty serious internal political upheavals already, to be precise, at least two, and I think one must stop at that [number]," Putin said in reference to violent antigovernment protests that toppled presidents in 2005 and 2010, the latter of which claimed some 100 lives.

"The country needs political stability and all [Kyrgyz] people must unite around the incumbent president to help him to develop the country. We have many cooperation plans with Kyrgyzstan and we certainly intend to implement all those plans along with the current authorities," Putin added.

Putin's statement comes amid an ongoing open stand-off between Atambaev and his successor Sooronbai Jeenbekov, who met with Putin in Moscow on July 11 as he made his way back home after an official trip to Switzerland.

Limited to a single six-year term by the constitution, Atambaev tapped Jeenbekov, his former prime minister, as his favored candidate in the October 2017 presidential election.

But the two have had a public falling out and have criticized each other for more than a year.

Several associates of Atambaev have been arrested on corruption charges, and Atambaev himself faces five counts of criminal misconduct while in office -- including corruption, abuse of office, and illegally enriching himself.

Atambaev has rejected all of the charges saying they are politically motivated. He refused to obey Interior Ministry subpoenas in an unspecified criminal investigation three times in July.

Under Kyrgyz law, a person who refuses to comply with two subpoenas can be forcibly detained for questioning. But authorities in Bishkek have so far not attempted to carry out such a move against the former president.

Atambaev's lawyer, Sergei Slesarev, has claimed a June 27 parliamentary vote that stripped Atambaev of his immunity from prosecution was illegal.

Slesarev argues that amendments made in May to Kyrgyzstan's law on the immunity of former presidents are unconstitutional.

Kyrgyz lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to remove Atambaev's immunity in a move that cleared the way for his prosecution.

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