Russia Helped Fuel Unrest in Kyrgyzstan

From the Washington Post: Less than a month before the violent protests that toppled the government of Kyrgyzstan last week, Russian television stations broadcast scathing reports portraying President Kurmanbek Bakiyev as a repugnant dictator whose family was stealing billions of dollars from this impoverished nation.

The media campaign, along with punishing economic measures adopted by the Kremlin, played a critical role in fanning public anger against Bakiyev and bringing people into the streets for the demonstrations that forced him to flee the capital Wednesday, according to protest leaders, local journalists and analysts.
"Even without Russia, this would have happened sooner or later, but . . . I think the Russian factor was decisive," said Omurbek Tekebayev, a former opposition leader who is now the No. 2 figure in the government. …

In November, Russian media reported that Putin upbraided the Kyrgyz prime minister at a summit, asking why the U.S. air base had not been closed and alleging that the Russian aid money had been stolen by Bakiyev’s family. In February, Moscow postponed payment of the remaining $1.7 billion of the package, with officials saying publicly that the first tranche had been misused. …

In addition to the reversal on the U.S. base, analysts said, the Kremlin turned against Bakiyev because he tried to bring China into a Russian deal to build a hydroelectric dam and to extract rent from Moscow for a Russian air base in Kyrgyzstan. Russian leaders were also upset that Bakiyev’s family was buying gasoline from Russia at special prices and selling it to the air base, a scheme worth as much as $80 million per year, Russian media reported.  (photo: AP)

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