How Zhaparov changed his rhetoric
On February 26, 2022, three days after the full-scale invasion of Russian troops into Ukraine, a telephone conversation took place between Vladimir Putin and Sadyr Zhaparov, during which, as the Russian side reported , support for Russia's actions in Ukraine was expressed. In response, the Ukrainian ambassador to Kyrgyzstan was recalled to Kyiv for consultations. A few days later, Zhaparov was forced to publicly clarify his words. Speaking in the Kyrgyz parliament, he spoke about the neutral status of Kyrgyzstan in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, noting the lack of opportunities for the Kyrgyz Republic to influence its outcome in any way.
However, already in March of the same year, the authorities of the Republic began to demonstrate full support for the repressive course of the Russian regime. This is confirmed not only by Zhaparov’s frequent visits to Moscow – since his election in January 2021, he has traveled to the Russian Federation five times – but also by the active lobbying in the Kyrgyz Republic of the bills “On Mass Media” and “On NGOs”. The latter introduces the status of "foreign agent". The bills are practically written off word for word from Russian counterparts, which is confirmed by the authors of the documents themselves.
But the authorities of the Republic are especially active in copying the "style" of Vladimir Putin in terms of repressions against those who opposed the war. The pioneers of this were the activists of the Red Roof association.
The Red Roof was created by Yulia Kuleshova , an activist from St. Petersburg. In April 2022, she moved to Bishkek. On this platform, the Russians who emigrated to Kyrgyzstan after February 24, 2022, created a kind of discussion club. On the anniversary of the start of the war, February 24, 2023, activists planned to lay flowers in Oak Park near Sinkevich's sculpture "The Earth is Our Home" in Bishkek in memory of the victims of the Russian invasion. But they were detained .
And in January, the Red Roof activist Timofey Ilyushin left the Kyrgyz Republic - also under pressure from the Bishkek police department. He planned to hold a peaceful picket near the Russian embassy in Bishkek.
In March 2023, the Red Roof association announced its closure on its Instagram page. The report noted that the Red Roof project was being stopped because its initiators "knew the palette of the impact of law enforcement agencies." The Russians said that they were videotaped, “and the impact of the district police, water utility, tax authorities, operatives is multifaceted and inventive.” For example, employees of the tax service, who were asked to show the basis for the check, presented a resolution “to conduct a raid to detect vodka and other strong alcohol.”
How did the devotion of the authorities of Kyrgyzstan to the Putin regime begin?
A demonstrative demonstration of loyalty to Russia and personally to Vladimir Putin turned into a trend for representatives of the Kyrgyz political elite long before February 2022, namely, after the bloody events of April 7, 2010, when Kurmanbek Bakiyev was overthrown as a result of a coup d'état.
In the year preceding this, in each territorial department of the State Committee for National Security of Kyrgyzstan, there was a Russian FSB officer. This was confirmed much later in 2018 by the former Prosecutor General Kubatbek Baibolov, as well as Bakiyev himself . There were two reasons for the fact that the then government in the person of Bakiyev ceased to suit Moscow.
- Bakiyev violated Moscow's condition - he did not denounce the agreement on the deployment of an American military air base in Bishkek.
- Did not intend to integrate Kyrgyzstan into the Customs Union.
Since 2010, stable expressions have appeared in the Kyrgyz political lexicon: “The Kremlin will demolish”, “The Kremlin made a bet”, “The Kremlin supports”, “Moscow’s protege”. Kyrgyz politicians of the first composition, both pro-government and opposition, actively sought and continue to seek Moscow's support. In June 2013, President Almazbek Atambayev signed a law to denounce the agreement on the deployment of a US military air base in the republic. Two years later, in July 2015, the cooperation agreement with the United States was also denounced. They are now trying to restore the latter, but the project is stuck within the walls of the Kyrgyz parliament. The powerful pro-Russian lobby is doing everything possible to prevent this document from being signed.
Since the coup in October 2020, Japarov has been trying to enlist the support of Russia and prove to Vladimir Putin and Moscow that he is not just a man who came to power from the street, but that he is loyal to Russia and that Putin should not worry about the friendliness of his political regime attitude towards Russia, Temur Umarov, a researcher at the Carnegie Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies in Berlin, told The Insider.
“Since then, since his coming to power, he has been doing everything to appear in the eyes of Moscow as his man. When the war began, Zhaparov was probably the unique president in all of Central Asia, who wrote in his personal publications on social networks that since Moscow recognized the LPR and DPR as independent states, there were reasons for this and that not everything is so simple. After that, there were calls to Vladimir Putin, where he spoke about supporting Russia's actions in Ukraine.
There were cases of pressure on Russian relocators who gathered in the Red Roof organization and held lectures and public speeches on the subject of the war and the future of Russia. They were also approached by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Kyrgyzstan and other law enforcement agencies with hints that if they did not stop their activities, they would face deportation. Considering that, in addition to everything else, Kyrgyzstan under Zhaparov is increasingly adapting Russian know-how and technologies in the field of authoritarianism and control over society, I do not think that what is happening causes any bewilderment of the expert community. The benefit for the authorities of Kyrgyzstan is to maintain good relations with the authoritarian regime of Vladimir Putin and adjust their regime to the patterns set by Moscow.”
In the parliamentary elections in November 2021, several parties that actively support Sadyr Zhaparov - Ata Zhurt Kyrgyzstan, Ishenim - were advised by Russian political technologists from the so-called "Prigozhin group". This was told The Insider on condition of anonymity by a political strategist who worked in PR groups of a number of Kyrgyz politicians. According to the interlocutor, consultations of political technologists associated with Yevgeny Prigozhin's influence group were an integral part of the parliamentary campaigns.
Recall that Sadyr Japarov got into the presidential chair straight from the prison bunk. In 2017, he was convicted under the article "hostage-taking" of the Criminal Code of the Kyrgyz Republic and sentenced by the court to 11.5 years in prison. If it weren’t for the events of October 2020, when a crowd of protesters “released him and other detainees, who are considered “political prisoners” in Kyrgyzstan, from prison as “birthdays of the revolution,” Sadyr Japarov would still be serving time.
“Zhaparov is afraid that “big Russia” will harm “little Kyrgyzstan”
The extradition of Russian activists to Putin's security forces is a profitable course for a "small state," says Kyrgyz political analyst Almaz Tazhybai.
“The benefit of extraditing Russian dissidents, including those who oppose military aggression, is that the “big Russia” not only does not harm the “small country”, but also does not stop helping the strategic partner in Central Asia in various spheres of life. Not only in the socio-economic, humanitarian and military fields, but primarily in the political support of the Kyrgyz authorities.
One more point needs to be noted. It is important: when Sadyr Zhaparov came to power in 2021, the country, from a hybrid form of democracy, joined the club of authoritarian countries surrounded by him, thereby losing the brand of an “island of democracy” in Central Asia. The Kyrgyz authorities began to actively apply Russian templates directed against democratic institutions.
So far, the KR is relatively free in lesser Central Asia, but it is moving towards the use of authoritarian methods of government. This is due to the strengthening and development of the vertical centralized power of the president in the country. Zhaparov is well aware of all the weaknesses of the government. Therefore, it legally uses all means to neutralize the opposition, as it was done in Russia, Belarus and other post-Soviet authoritarian countries.”
The authorities of the Republic may also support cooperation between Russian and Kyrgyz security forces out of fear of retaliatory deportations in case of disobedience, says political analyst Turat Akimov.
“In my opinion, this is happening according to official and unofficial agreements between the Kremlin and Bishkek. Moreover, there are Minsk agreements between the Prosecutor General's Offices of the Kyrgyz Republic and the Russian Federation and other CIS countries on the exchange of criminal elements, terrorists and people on the national wanted list. Today, Bishkek extradited Russian citizens, about six months ago, the Russian Interior Ministry detained in Moscow and extradited Kyrgyz oppositionists like Chyngyz Shamenov and Orozaiym Narmatov. Bishkek, as an ally in the CSTO, is forced to support Moscow's actions in Ukraine and would not like problems with the Kremlin regarding Russian activists. Especially when there are more than 1 million Kyrgyz guest workers in the Russian Federation.”
“Any Russian can be deported”
Human rights activist Gulshaiyr Abdirasulova emphasizes that the Kyrgyz authorities do not consider Russian refugees to be refugees.
“They deport everyone, of course, at the request of the Russian Federation — those who have criminal cases and who are wanted. Those for whom there is no request stay normally if there is no violation of immigration laws. Some [detainees] did not even suspect that they had criminal cases against them and that they were wanted. On the one hand, with normal observance of human rights obligations, they are refugees, on the other hand, they are, within the framework of the agreements, criminals.
We don't have mechanisms. At one time, Uzbeks and Kazakhs fled to us, and Kyrgyzstan recognized them as refugees. And there are no Russians, because the UNHCR office has terminated this part of its mandate, there is no state agency at the national level that would register as refugees. Therefore, everyone has the status of foreign tourists. Everyone who flees to Kyrgyzstan is at risk of being deported.”
At the same time, according to expert Nursultan Akylbek, it is still too early to call the regime of Kyrgyzstan totalitarian.
“There is a choice here between the image of a free country and interstate relations between Kyrgyzstan and Russia. And here, the second often prevails over the first. Is there a benefit? I don't think in the long term. In my opinion, the principle here is “quid pro quo” – today you will render us a service, and tomorrow we will.
But against the backdrop of all these events, I would not say that Kyrgyzstan has become the most unfree country. Unlike other countries, thanks to a strong civil society, thanks to the people who are used to expressing their position from time immemorial, we still remain a relatively free country in the region. But we are losing the achievements that were before. The proof is the latest international freedom ratings, where our country has fallen by 50 points (the rating of freedom of speech "Reporters Without Borders" - Note by The Insider), the expulsion of journalists, an attempt to close Azattyk, the adoption of the law "On protection from inaccurate (false) information ”, attempts to pass new laws against the media and NGOs. This all goes against the values that we have been striving for since the signing of the Declaration of Independence, that is, since August 31, 1991.”
Who is detained and expelled by Kyrgyzstan
The Kyrgyz special services and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Kyrgyz Republic are engaged in identifying and expelling the so-called "unreliable" Russians, closely cooperating with the law enforcement agencies of Russia. Detentions, arrests and forced departure from the Republic were faced not only by the Red Roof activists mentioned above.
The FSB calculated that in 2022, 446 thousand 574 citizens of the Russian Federation entered Kyrgyzstan. 17,000 Russians visited Kyrgyzstan as a business trip. As service personnel of vehicles, 42 thousand citizens of the Russian Federation entered the Kyrgyz Republic. 69,000 Russians visited Kyrgyzstan for tourism purposes. Most often, citizens of the Russian Federation indicated private reasons as the reasons for entry - about 313 thousand 469 people. The largest influx of Russians to Kyrgyzstan was observed after the announcement of the so-called “partial mobilization” in the Russian Federation - in the third quarter of 2022. Then 167 thousand 290 people came to the country.
Among the arrivals there are those who are wanted in Russia and persecuted for their anti-war position. Knowing that in Russia such activists face a long prison term and they will not be able to count on fair justice, the security forces of the Kyrgyz Republic deport them to the Russian Federation.
On June 4, Russian woman Alena Krylova , a defendant in the Left Resistance case, was detained in Bishkek, Sota reports. On June 12, she was sent to Bishkek SIZO-1. As Krylova's lawyers told The Insider, she is on the international wanted list at the request of Russia. It is specified that Alena Krylova filed an application for refugee status. Her documents are already under consideration by the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection. “We challenged the decision of the district instance, and according to the law, until there is a decision on the status of a refugee, she cannot be expelled from the country,” the lawyers said.
Krylova is an activist of the organization "For Human Rights". She is charged under Part 2 of Art. 282.1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation “Participation in an extremist community”, up to 6 years in prison, in the case of “Left Resistance”. She was under house arrest from Moscow.
On June 9, in Bishkek, officers of the special services of the Kyrgyz Republic detained anarchist Lev Skoryakin, but the State Committee for National Security denied that Skoryakin was with them. The official representative of the department said that no one arrested the Russian anarchist.
In Russia, Skoryakin has been arrested in absentia since February 2023, he has been put on the federal wanted list there. Lev and another activist of the Left Block opposition organization, communist Ruslan Abasov , were detained in December 2021 due to a rally near the FSB building against repressions, they spent more than seven months in a pre-trial detention center, then they were released with a restriction in the form of a ban on certain actions.
On June 6, military activist Alexei Rozhkov was expelled to Russia without a court decision. He set fire to the recruiting office in the suburbs of Yekaterinburg in protest against the war in Ukraine. Aleksey Rozhkov became the third person in the Russian Federation who set fire to the military enlistment office after the Russian army invaded Ukraine. He was detained and charged with "attempted murder" - allegedly there was a woman watchman in the building of the military registration and enlistment office. However, six months later, the article was reclassified as “damage to property,” and Aleksey Rozhkov was released from the pre-trial detention center.
Against the backdrop of statements by the authorities that the arson of military enlistment offices should be qualified as "terrorist acts", he left Russia. The Berezovsky City Court of the Sverdlovsk Region resumed consideration of the criminal case against the activist.
No "Porn Movies"
The authorities of Kyrgyzstan echo Russia not only in the arrests of opposition activists, but also in the cancellation of concerts of musical groups that speak out against the war in Ukraine.
In particular, the concert of the Russian group " Pornofilmy " was canceled in Bishkek due to threats from the security forces. This was reported on the pages of the group in social networks.
"Friends! As you already know, our concert in Bishkek has been cancelled. Let's talk about the reasons. The security forces came to the club where we were going to play with threats. We were looking for alternatives, but it was very quickly and clearly made clear to all venues in the city that no one would be allowed to hold our concert. After long negotiations and searching for at least some options, we could not do anything. We are very sorry that this happened. We know how you have been waiting for us. We ourselves were very much looking forward to this concert and are infinitely upset by the circumstances. We sincerely apologize to everyone who was waiting for our arrival in Bishkek. Money for tickets will be automatically returned to everyone, ”the team noted.
The concert in Bishkek was supposed to take place on Saturday 10 June. At the same time in Almaty (Kazakhstan) "Pornofilmy" performed successfully.
The other day it also became known that in Bishkek the concert of another popular rock band " Bi-2 " was canceled for "unexplained reasons". which was supposed to take place on June 18 at the local Sports Palace. This was also announced by the organizers of the event in his Instagram. The company Vi project kg, which organized the show in Bishkek, apologized to fans of the rockers who planned to attend their performance in the capital. “We were also waiting for our artists, but for unknown reasons, the concert was canceled. All ticket refunds will be with our ticket operators, after all paperwork has been completed, ”the organizers said in a statement.
They also added that they would never work with Vi project kz again, as "their terms of cooperation are contrary to the legislation of the Kyrgyz Republic." It should be noted that Bi-2 is on tour in Central Asia, where the group plays together with a symphony orchestra. The team has already performed in Tashkent and Astana, concerts are scheduled in Karaganda, Almaty and Semey.
"Bi-2" and "Pornofilmy", along with several other creative teams, openly opposed the war in Ukraine. The expulsion of Russian activists who do not support the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the cancellation of the performances of Russian groups recognized in Russia as “undesirable”, confirms the thesis that Sadyr Zhaparov and his administration are firmly entrenched in the wake of the Kremlin and will not deviate from the course set by Moscow.