Akayev on Ekho Moskvy

by Nathan Hamm on 3/29/2005 · 2 comments

Below is a translation of Askar Akayev’s interview on Ekho Moskvy today prepared by Elnura Osmonalieva. If you missed her account of the government’s collapse, be sure to check it out.

29 March 2005
5:00 pm Moscow time

Ekho Moskvy, “Proverka sluha”, special issue

Q: Thank you for letting to get in touch with you. There is a lot of information about Kirgizia now, everyone beside you had spoken. Where are you now?

A: I am now in Russia, in Moscow suburbs. I am very grateful to President Putin who invited me to stay here.

Q: How shall we call or refer to you now?

A: I am still the only popularly elected and legitimate president of Kyrgyzstan and my term is over on 31 October 2005. I have not resigned.

Q: It does not seem like you plan to do it.

A: I do not any reason or basis for my resignation.

Q: Where were you on 24 March?

A: Since morning I was at my workplace on the 7th flour of the Government House, had meetings, work on running the country was going as normal.

Q: Where were you when the storm started?

A: The opposition stated that it would hold a peaceful demonstration on the main square Ala-Too, which is seen well from the window of my office. Till that day we had a constant dialogue with the opposition leaders, they convinced us that there would be a peaceful demonstration that is why we did not prevent it. But instead of a peaceful demonstration there suddenly was a violent take-over of the Government House. Half an hour before the seizure of the Government House I left the building, since the storm started to look more like a battle, where one side had an advantage over the other – thousands of young men, who opposition brought, while the Government House was defending itself with a small number of police and National Guards, who we ordered not to use force. From windows we saw them being violently beaten up, humiliated, thrown stones and bottles at. The security service demanded that I leave
the building then.

Q: You said that you had a continuous negotiation with the opposition leaders. They are saying that they did not plan to take power this way. Do you think that they are saying truth? What provoked these events?

A: From early on the opposition planned to take over power, not in a peaceful way as it happened in Kiev and Tbilisi. Their goal was not to have negotiations. For instance, on March 22nd deputies of the newly elected Parliament were sworn in and created a deputy commission which was supposed to define platform and format of negotiations. But the opposition did not agree to that, not on the 22nd, not on the 23rd.

Opposition brought its men from villages from various regions. That is something opposition leaders mentioned themselves. That is why at their recent meetings they said that their share of power should correspond to the number of people each of them brought to the demonstration. All demonstration participants were from other places, there was not a single Bishkek resident among them.

Q: How did you security deal with it?

A: They were very brave, collected, acted clearly and at the last moment, half an hour before the seizure:before this there was information about assassination attempt:opposition gave out the order that did not exclude my physical extermination.

Q: Where was your family on March 24th?

A: The family was in our summer house. Bermet and Aidar were in the parliament. My wife and grandchildren were in the summer house.

Q: There are many questions from Bishkek. People there would like to know your opinion on many things.

Q: Were will you leave? Who should be the next president?

A: Kyrgyzstan is my country, my motherland. I will of course return when there will be constitutional order, when rights and liberties will be protected. I am sure that our wise people will elect a worthy president, that is why I was re-elected several times. That is why I did not choose replacement.

Q: You will not run for office in the upcoming elections?

A: In 2000 I announced that this would be my last term. I repeatedly stated it. I am against changing the Constitution, it should be saved with great care; I am not going to run again. I just want the new president to be legitimate and for there to be constitutional elections.

Q: Will you hold negotiations with the new power? With whom?

A: The new Parliament is the only legitimate power now, which elected Omurbek Tekebaev, who is a representative of democratic opposition forces, as its speaker. I congratulate him with that. He was my contester at the last Presidential Elections, we always had an honest fight, he is the only legitimate leader – I will have negotiations with him.

Q: You do not recognize other opposition activists?

A: The current government is illegitimate. Opposition leaders today did not manage to keep things in the framework of the Constitution, they overtook power in violation of the Constitution. I am ready to have negotiations, to help the new Parliament and the Speaker of the new Parliament.

Q: Would you confirm the authenticity of statements sent on your behalf via e-mail?

A: Yes, I confirm that. I forwarded two appeals for the people of Kyrgyzstan via e-mail, since I did not have access to other media. My computer is always with me, so I used it and wrote the statements myself.

Q: Countries, who have signed the agreement on collective security, offered you help – why didn’t you accept when there was a chance?

A: I thought that it was an issue of internal nature and that external interference could somehow complicate everything , that is why I did not use that offer.

Q: Did you think about introducing state of extraordinaire in Kyrgyzstan before the seizure of the Government House happened?

A: From the very start I was against using arms, which eventually lead to seizure of the Government House, but I admit that I would not dream of this in my worst nightmare, that these young men, these criminal elements, which were hired by the opposition, would be moved on to do looting and stealing. I was in shock when I saw the pictures on TV. I have a great sense of guilt before the Bishkek residents for not being able to prevent this. If I knew, I would have done everything to protect them, but unfortunately I could not predict that people would start
looting the whole city.

Q: There was an impression that Kirgizia was on the verge of civil war. Did that threat diminish now?

A: Yes, its beyond that. That is why I was against using arms. My last order to the Internal Affairs Minister Duishebaev was not to use arms, because it would lead to interregional and interethnic conflict and civil war. Power is not worth one single drop of blood. I am still convinced that was a right decision.

Q: Do you see the wrongs of your policies and how do you view them now? Don’t you think that your son and daughters running for the parliament complicated the political situation? What would you not have done again if you had the chance?

A: Of course, there is an old Russian saying – “One who does not work, does not make mistakes”. Naturally, I made many mistakes during the years of presidency. We admitted them, corrected them. There were many mistakes, but I was convinced that the country was going the right direction. We were called “the island of democracy”, we conducted large-scale economic reforms. The world community recognised us as leader of economic reforms in our region, people’s welfare grew in the last years. But most importantly there were peace and stability – which OSCE saw as exemplary not only for post-Soviet states but for the European countries as well. However, there were many mistakes, of course, it is difficult to list all of them. Daughter and son – this is international practice. Why couldn’t President’s children choose their independent political path of development? For instance, America – Kennedy family, Bush – father and son, the brother is a governor. I think that this is over-exaduration, another myth created by the opposition. My children went trough the people’s sieve, I think it is normal. There are many mistakes, to go throughh them all would be tiresome.

Q: Kulov has stated that your property would not be nationalized. Is it true that just one car is listed in your declaration?

A: I don’t remember what’s in the declaration. Everything is laid out in “the Law on President of KR”. There is a myth that all of Kyrgyzstan is Akaev and his family’s property. If to believe myths of the opposition, then I own half of Moscow, I have property in Switzerland and Turkey:I own half the world.

Q: When in fact you have nowhere to live?

A: In fact we are here as guests and are very grateful for warm hospitality.

Q: Why won’t you come to Bishkek and speak before the people? Kulov and Bakiev have said that you have immunity. Do you believe them?

A: AT the moment neither Bakiev nor Kulov have legitimacy and thus cannot be guaranteeing me security and immunity. Yes, they are leaders of opposition, they are rulers – but they do not have constitutional legitimacy, such guarantees can be given only by the Speaker of the Parliament and the Parliament itself, as a legitimate organ of the Kyrgyz Republic. If there are guarantees, I will return to Kyrgyzstan definitely. I wish to help the Parliament so the new President is elected legitimately. Kyrgyzstan will be vulnerable because the opposition will have a new opposition and they might go for a similar anti-constitutional seizure of power. I would like to help to have constitutional elections.

Q: Where is Tanaev? (Prime Minister who resigned recently)

A: We are in touch with him. He is now in Kyrgyzstan.

Q: What advice would you give to other Central Asian presidents and Putin?

A: I would suggest, since we, all Central Asain states, are now countries, building democracy: – if the country is going in the right direction, it can be assumed that democracy will protect itself. What I learned from this is that democracy in our region is still weak and cannot protect itself – it needs to be protected, with use of force if necessary

I am very worried for the fate of my country. I am afraid that this will draw the country back. We have accomplished a lot. Investors left the country, the new ones are not coming soon. Local businesses have suffered – they were mainly in Bishkek, it is looted, it will be very difficult to keep the economy under control. I am worried, wherever I am, I will help the country and the people in whatever way I can.

Q: How did the international academia react – did they show their support?

A: I am truly grateful to my friends-scientists of Russia, there is a lot between us; they have shown great moral support.

Q: Did any external factors play a role? Is there a threat of Islamic radicalism?

A: Of course there was external influence. We knew about the tulip revolution, as it is called now. These events took place as a result of desire on part of several international organizations to force democratic processes. It resulted in anti-constitutional over throw of power. Some Hizb-ut-Tahrir people wanted to help certain deputies. If there will be destabilization again then Islamic groups might take advantage of the situation.

Q: Thank you very much for your time. You may use our services again when desired. Last comment from Bishkek, Yulia from Bishkek writes: “I am very sorry that the country lost such a president”. With this we end our programme, good bye.

A: Thank you, good bye.

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This post was written by...

– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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{ 1 comment }

Laurence March 29, 2005 at 5:53 pm

Thank you Elnura for translating and posting this, and Nathan for running it!

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