COUNTRY of coups and dashed hopes

Despite demo­c­ra­t­ic donor coun­tries gen­er­ous sup­port Kyrgyz elites con­tin­ue to roll back towards author­i­tar­i­an­ism and klep­toc­ra­cy. Twice these process­es result­ed in mass riots, with Kyrgyzstan’s two pres­i­dents Akayev and Bakiyev flee­ing the country. 

In 2011, Rosa Otunbayeva the only pres­i­dent so far whose rep­u­ta­tion — and free­dom — remain intact hand­ed pres­i­den­tial pow­ers to demo­c­ra­t­i­cal­ly elect­ed Almazbek Atambayev. His pres­i­den­cy was marred by a mul­ti­tude of cor­rup­tion scan­dals that impli­cat­ed him and his entourage in cor­rup­tion and theft of bud­getary funds and loans. Trying to sup­press the crit­i­cism Atambayev heav­i­ly per­se­cut­ed the media, civ­il soci­ety activists, polit­i­cal oppo­nents, leav­ing behind a long list of polit­i­cal pris­on­ers with many flee­ing into exile. On Atambayev’s orders a promi­nent Kyrgyz politi­cian Omurbek Tekebayev, was charged for fraud and cor­rup­tion and sen­tenced to 8 years’ impris­on­ment in a case human rights orga­ni­za­tions called polit­i­cal­ly moti­vat­ed. Such meth­ods aren’t nov­el­ty in Kyrgyzstan. In 2006, long before Atambayev, in an attempt to charge Tekebaev with drug traf­fick­ing Bakiyev orga­nized the plant­i­ng of hero­in-filled “Matreoshka” doll in Tekebayev’s lug­gage on his European par­lia­men­tary tour. Talant Tairov, then the head of the air­port secu­ri­ty, car­ried out this oper­a­tion upon Bakiyev’s orders. Recently Mr.Tairov was brought back into his job by pres­i­dent Jeenbekov. Tairov’s old­er broth­er Bakir was appoint­ed Head of State Agency on Economic Crimes. 

Poster with foto of Kurmanbek Bakiyev, van­dal­ized by protesters.

Same people, same methods.

With the same peo­ple com­ing back into pow­er the same bru­tal meth­ods against oppo­nents con­tin­ue to be applied. A strong exam­ple is the case of ex-Prosecutor General of Kyrgyzstan Aida Salyanova, who held the post from 2011 to 2015 and is known for ini­ti­at­ing a num­ber of cor­rup­tion inves­ti­ga­tions against influ­en­tial politi­cians. A young, com­pe­tent woman, con­duct­ing high-pro­file arrests of offi­cials and enjoy­ing broad pub­lic sup­port.

Aida Salyanova

In December 2014 rumours began cir­cu­lat­ing about deep polit­i­cal con­flict between Salyanova and Atambayev. Reporters claimed that the Prosecutor General had tak­en leave of absence and would sub­se­quent­ly resign. To deny the rumours, President Atambayev held a press con­fer­ence on December 27, 2014 prais­ing her high­ly and stat­ing that Salyanova was “just tired”, and will return to the post. 

On January 19, 2015 Aida Salyanova offi­cial­ly sub­mit­ted her res­ig­na­tion from the post of Prosecutor General of Kyrgyzstan. The same day, in what looked like a bribery attempt, Atambayev rushed to award her with a medal “for sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to the fight against crime and cor­rup­tion in Kyrgyzstan.” 

The rulers’ corrupt friends

The con­flict between the pres­i­dent and the pros­e­cu­tor is root­ed in 2014 when she launched an inves­ti­ga­tion into cor­rup­tion in the pur­chase of coal for Bishkek Heating and Power Plant. Yearly con­tract was worth $28 mil­lion. The “Kazakh Trio” of oli­garchs Alexander Mashkevich, Patokh Shodiev and Alijan Ibragimov — involved in sev­er­al inter­na­tion­al scan­dals and inves­ti­ga­tions by European law enforce­ment for fraud, bribery and cor­rup­tion — kept win­ning the con­tracts year after year.

Following her inves­ti­ga­tion Salyanova accused Atambayev of com­plic­i­ty to cor­rup­tion in these coal deals. 

The Kazakh “Trio”, Alexander Mashkevich, Patokh Shodiev and Alijan Ibragimov 

The price of the rebellion

After Salyanova’s res­ig­na­tion, the author­i­ties twist­ed the coal sup­ply case inves­ti­gat­ed by Salyanova in such a man­ner that Salyanova’s own hus­band Abdykaparov was charged with abuse of office and fraud soon after her res­ig­na­tion – on March 11, 2015. 

The coal sto­ry begins with the open­ing of bids, which took place on 18 April, 2014. Kazakh Company “Zhezkazgan Energosbyt” was the low­est bid­der with $ 26.5 mil­lion. Next was Adalinn LLP with $ 31.5 mil­lion, and Darsan Komir LLP with $ 32.8 mil­lion. The most expen­sive bid­der with $ 35.9 mil­lion was the Progress Company, a “Kazakh Trio’s” legal enti­ty reg­is­tered in Kyrgyzstan. 

Consequently, “Zhezkazgan Energosbyt” won the bid and after sign­ing of con­tract deliv­ered the coal, which to this day remains unpaid by the Kyrgyz gov­ern­ment. However, the then Minister of Energy of the Kyrgyz Republic Osmonbek Artykbaev (now under arrest) chal­lenged the results of the ten­der in court, and the rep­re­sen­ta­tive of “Zhezkazgan Energosbyt” Mr.Baihombaev was forced to flee Kyrgyzstan fear­ing for his life. He was lat­er caught by Kyrgyz KGB in Belarus, but was set free after tes­ti­fy­ing against Abdykaparov. He par­rot­ed KGB’s ver­sion of events, that Salyanova’s hus­band alleged­ly, inter­fered in bid­ding process and arranged “Zhezkazgan Energosbyt” to win. This was con­firmed in jour­nal­ist inves­ti­ga­tion. It is still unclear what dam­age has been caused by the alleged actions. “Zhezkazgan Energosbyt” in any case was still the low­est bidder. 

Commercial direc­tor of joint stock com­pa­ny “Electrical Stations”, the coal pur­chas­ing agency, Mr.Imanov, spent 9 months in KGB deten­tion cen­ter refus­ing to sup­port the KGB inves­ti­ga­tors sto­ry and to pro­vide false tes­ti­mo­ny against Abdykaparov. He insist­ed to have nev­er met Abdykaparov.

On October 2, 2016 Imanov as well as Abdykaparov were found guilty for bid tem­per­ing and sen­tenced to lengthy prison terms albeit con­di­tion­al. With Salyanova bogged down in courts and “Zhezkazgan Energosbyt” out of the way at least two goals were achieved: Salyanova was inca­pac­i­tat­ed and the “Rassvet” com­pa­ny affil­i­at­ed with Mashkevitch-Chodiev-Ibragimov remained the exclu­sive sup­pli­er of coal. 

Two months lat­er, on December 26, 2016, Kyrgyzstan’s author­i­ties ini­ti­at­ed anoth­er crim­i­nal case, against Aida Salyanova, for renew­al of an attor­ney license for Alexei Eliseev, a Bishkek lawyer who received polit­i­cal asy­lum in Latvia. In response to accu­sa­tions, she said there were no legal grounds to refuse the renew­al of license. Salyanova regard­ed the author­i­ties’ actions as an attempt to intim­i­date her.

On October 10, 2017 Salyanova was sen­tenced to five years’ impris­on­ment sus­pend­ed until 2029, until her child is 14 years old. Observers and oppo­si­tion Ata-Meken par­ty report­ed gross vio­la­tions by the court and pros­e­cu­tion and appealed to pres­i­dent Jeenbekov, who remained deaf to the call for justice.

The murder case as a pretext for political persecution

On March 16, 2014 a girl’s body with signs of vio­lent death was found on the out­skirts of Bishkek. The vic­tim was a 19-year-old stu­dent Kamila Duyshebaeva.

The cir­cum­stances of her death are unknown, and the case remains unsolved. During the inves­ti­ga­tion it was found that Aida Salyanova’s rel­a­tive Kalybek Eltuybasov was acquaint­ed with the girl, and on the eve of her dis­ap­pear­ance gave her a ride to one of the city’s cafés. Eltuybasov claimed that he nev­er saw the young woman again. His words were con­firmed by video records reviewed by investigators. 

After 3 years, on June 29, 2017, out­side of statute of lim­i­ta­tion, the Ministry of Interior ini­ti­at­ed a case of obstruc­tion of the inves­ti­ga­tion, and announced that Kalybek Eltuybasova was want­ed for delet­ing records from sauna cam­corders, where he spent the evening with friends before and after meet­ing with Duyshebaeva. The “wit­ness” whose tes­ti­mo­ny was used to charge Eltuibasov lat­er report­ed in a journalist’s inves­ti­ga­tion, that he slan­dered Eltuybasov after being pres­sured by authorities.

Manipulation and misinformation

Taking advan­tage of the acquain­tance between Salyanova’s rel­a­tive and the deceased girl, author­i­ties fed media state­ments to make audi­ence per­ceive the Ex-Attorney General’s rel­a­tive as a mur­der­er. Headlines read: “The case on the mur­der of Camila Duyshebaeva reopened. Interior Ministry announced search for Kalybek Eltuybasov”, or “Case of K.Duyshebaeva. A rel­a­tive of the for­mer Attorney General A.Salyanova Kalybek declared want­ed”,“Kalybek Eltuybasov (Salyanov) is want­ed in the case of Camila Duyshebaeva”. 

Kyrgyz author­i­ties went as far as abus­ing the Interpol sys­tem again. Eltuybasov’s Interpol search was orga­nized by Pervomaisky dis­trict court judge Aibek Ernis ulu — the same judge who metic­u­lous­ly exe­cut­ed orders of the author­i­ties in sen­tenc­ing Tekebayev and oth­er oppo­nents of the authorities.

Kalybek Eltuybasov was forced to flee the coun­try and seek asy­lum in the United States. In February 2019 in a court hear­ing the American judge insight­ful­ly described the Kyrgyz author­i­ties: «respon­dent has demon­strat­ed a well-found­ed fear of future per­se­cu­tion, […] although Eltuibasov is being charged with a crime of gen­er­al applic­a­bil­i­ty, the record con­tains sub­stan­tial evi­dence that the charges are fab­ri­cat­ed. […] since Kyrgyzstan’s inde­pen­dence and no mat­ter the pres­i­den­tial or par­lia­men­tar­i­an regime, pres­sure and crim­i­nal charges against out­cast high-rank­ing per­son­al­i­ties have stemmed from the ‘log­ic’ of a neo-pat­ri­mo­ni­al regime. In this con­text, any chal­lenge to the cor­rup­tion sta­tus quo results in retribution.”

Excerpt from Kansas city immi­gra­tion court deci­sion on Kalybek Eltuibasov


Three months after Kalybek Eltuybasov was declared want­ed, on the night of November 6, 2017, sev­er­al armed men in cam­ou­flage uni­forms and masks broke into the house of Aida Salyanova’s broth­er. As a result of the armed attack Ulan Salyanov was killed.

Although no mon­ey or valu­ables were stolen the law enforce­ment agen­cies tried to char­ac­ter­ize it as a sim­ple rob­bery  and denied any sug­ges­tions that the case was polit­i­cal­ly moti­vat­ed. This was the offi­cial posi­tion of Ulan Israilov – Atambayev’s for­mer body­guard, whom the lat­ter appoint­ed the Minister of Interior. 

Aida Salyanova insist­ed that the mur­der was polit­i­cal­ly moti­vat­ed. She was also her brother’s main defend­er in the inveti­ga­tion. Thanks to her per­sis­tence the main sus­pect was detained at the end of December 2017. Two more were arrest­ed in Russia in 2018. A wit­ness in the case stat­ed that one of the sus­pects con­fid­ed about an offer to kill a high-rank­ing per­son. The wit­ness, how­ev­er, doesn’t know who the tar­get was.

Ulan Slyanov’s house.

Foto: Toktosun Shambetov RFE/RL

Another accusation

On June 5, 2019 Aida Salyanova was arrest­ed and was charged with par­tic­i­pa­tion in the release of crim­i­nal boss Aziz Batukayev.

Aziz Batukaev is a “thief-in-law” and a mem­ber of the transna­tion­al crim­i­nal orga­ni­za­tion “Brothers’ Circle”. He was sen­tenced to 16 years in prison for drug traf­fick­ing and ille­gal pos­ses­sion of weapons.

Evacuation of a VIP

Evacuation of the crime boss was bril­liant­ly executed. 

In 2013, the crime boss pre­tend­ed to be ter­mi­nal­ly ill. On February 27, 2013 his sis­ter Yaha, now serv­ing a 17-year prison sen­tence in Russia for involve­ment in the hero­in trade, sub­mit­ted a let­ter to the Minister of Health of Kyrgyzstan, request­ing med­ical tests for her brother.

Aziz Batukayev. 

Foto Prime Crime

On the same day the head of the Kyrgyz State Penitentiary Service (SPS) and the Institute of Hematology sent a med­ical spe­cial­ist to the colony. Officials allowed Yaha Batukaeva to trans­port the con­sul­tant with test tubes to and from the remote, inac­ces­si­ble Naryn province in her pri­vate car. The next day the lab­o­ra­to­ry ran the tests and con­clud­ed that smears con­tained acute myel­oge­nous leukemia.

It took a month and 5 gov­ern­ment agen­cies (the State Penitentiary Service, the Institute of Hematology, the Ministry of Health, 3 pros­e­cu­tors super­vis­ing pen­i­ten­tiary facil­i­ties and a judge) to release the crime boss. 

Its worth not­ing that 8 years of efforts by inter­na­tion­al orga­ni­za­tions, the UN and the Western politi­cians to free the promi­nent and seri­ous­ly ill elder­ly human rights activist Azimzhan Askarov who was sen­tenced to life in prison on trumped-up charges have been fruit­less. The case of the Chechen crim­i­nal boss’s evac­u­a­tion is a unique exam­ple of the con­cert­ed actions of the Kyrgyz state appa­ra­tus, which in all oth­er cas­es, sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly stalls. It indi­cates that when the Kyrgyz gov­ern­ment is inter­est­ed, it can be shock­ing­ly effective.

From the inves­tiga­tive papers the actions of each offi­cial are clear and con­firmed by paper trail. For exam­ple, General Rysaliev who was then the Head of the State Penitentiary Service ini­ti­at­ed the process of the release, The Ministry of Health and the Institute of Hematology cov­ered the med­ical part. 3 pros­e­cu­tors, Mr.Akmatalyev, Mr.Aymambetov and Mr.Jumatayev par­tic­i­pat­ed in the court pro­ceed­ings and expressed their offi­cial con­sent for the release.

In the ongo­ing inves­ti­ga­tion the above men­tioned pros­e­cu­tors tes­ti­fied against Salyanova stat­ing they act­ed on her ver­bal orders and thus shift­ing the blame on her. Salyanova’s attor­ney Rabiga Sydykova believes that the 3 impli­cat­ed pros­e­cu­tors received lenien­cy in return for false tes­ti­mo­ny against Aida Salyanova. According to Salyanova’s defense team these charges lack any evidence.

VIP criminal, the son of KGB Chairman, scandalous oligarchs 

Immediately after the tri­al, escort­ed by the State Penitentiary Service Chairman Rysaliev’s Aide and an armed SWAT, the Chechen drug traf­fick­er was tak­en to the Manas air­port where a pri­vate jet and a new pass­port pru­dent­ly ordered by Rysaliev a month before await­ed. When asked about the SWAT escort Mr. Zarylbek Rysaliev told a Parliamentary com­mit­tee that he ordered it “For safe­ty rea­sons, in case of the assas­si­na­tion attempt against Batukaev”. As if he the per­son in ques­tion was not a dan­ger­ous crim­i­nal, but a VIP. 

Among oth­er high offi­cials impli­cat­ed in this case, the son of the for­mer Kyrgyz vice-prime min­is­ter super­vis­ing the law enforce­ment block, who at dif­fer­ent peri­ods of time held posts of the chair­man of the State National Security Committee (KGB) and Minister of the Interior Shamil Atakhanov — busi­ness­man Daniyar Atakhanov played an inter­est­ing role in this operation. 

The Kyrgyz Parliamentary com­mit­tee received a cer­tifi­cate from the Ministry of Transport and the Manas Airport on the char­ter­ing and ser­vic­ing of a pri­vate jet Bombardier Challenger 300 which whisked Batukaev away to Grozny, Chechnya. The appli­ca­tion for flight ser­vice to Kyrgyz air nav­i­ga­tion stat­ed “Transporting a Private VIP”. “Anilia” and “APR” com­pa­nies and their direc­tor Atakhanov Jr. were iden­ti­fied as the host.

Again the Kazakh “Trio”?

At the par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee hear­ing com­pa­ny rep­re­sen­ta­tives report­ed that Daniyar Atakhanov is also a per­ma­nent host for the Kazakh oli­garch Alexander Mashkevich, who often flies to Kyrgyzstan on his pri­vate aircraft.

Anilia” LLC is a sub­sidiary of “CIM KG INTERMEDIARY”, owned by Mashkevich. In 2015 Mr. Adylov Sultanhodzha became the head of the firm. Mr.Adylov also directs and co-owns com­pa­nies with Bolot Abirov – the con­trac­tor for “Eurasian Natural Resources” coal — a cor­po­ra­tion owned by the “Trio”, a probe into which brought grim con­se­quences for the ex-Prosecutor gen­er­al. According to some reports in July 2019 Bolot Abirov hasti­ly left the coun­try. There was no offi­cial report that author­i­ties are look­ing for him.

Revenge of the Interior Minister?

The ongo­ing inves­ti­ga­tion against Salyanova may be biased due to desire to set­tle scores.

The inves­ti­gat­ing body is the Ministry of Interior. The head of the Ministry is Major General Kashkar Dzhunushaliev.

Kyrgyz Minister of Interior Kashkar Dzhunushaliev

On February 2, 2012, Aida Salyanova opened a crim­i­nal inves­ti­ga­tion against him, alleg­ing that Kashkar Dzhunushaliev, then deputy head of the Ministry of Interior, bypassed the legal pro­ce­dures and issued a license to sell fire-arms and ammu­ni­tion to his own daugh­ter. The crim­i­nal case then end­ed in noth­ing. When the case came to the court, from March 2012 to August 2012 the defen­dant Dzhunushaliev fell ill. In August 2012, a judge of the Pervomaisky dis­trict court ceased the case on ille­gal issuance of license for fire-arms trade. The judge did not give any com­ments to reporters. By com­par­i­son, the right­ful renew­al of lawyer’s license to an immi­grat­ed lawyer land­ed Salyanova with a 5 year prison sentence.

Two years after that probe Kashkar Dzhunushaliev becomes Minister of Interior, and the judge Subankulov, who acquit­ted him war­rants Aida Salyanova’s arrest.

The charge against Atambayev

It is clear that new pres­i­dent Jeenbekov is scram­bling to charge Atambaev. Scandal around Aziz Batukaev’s release is a per­fect pre­text. Perhaps know­ing that Salyanova is being pressed for tes­ti­mo­ny against him and fear­ing his neme­sis will be used by new Kyrgyz ruler against him, Atambayev made a pub­lic appear­ance stat­ing “I’m sure that Salyanova has absolute­ly noth­ing to do with the Batukaev’s case”. 

On August 9, 2019 Atambayev was arrest­ed and author­i­ties final­ly brought charges against him includ­ing on Batukayev’s release. 

It is known that the inves­ti­ga­tion expects Salyanova’s tes­ti­mo­ny against the for­mer pres­i­dent. However, Salyanova’s aides report that in spite of the pres­sure exert­ed on her ex-pros­e­cu­tor General will not com­mit perjury.

The efforts of the cur­rent Kyrgyz author­i­ties to charge Atambayev at any cost, cut­ting cor­ners and extort­ing the desired tes­ti­monies will yet again result in a gross­ly fab­ri­cat­ed case. Despite abun­dance of evi­dence point­ing to Atambayev’s com­mit­ting graft, grand cor­rup­tion and oth­er crimes the oppor­tu­ni­ty to bring him to true jus­tice is being lost due to unpro­fes­sion­al­ism and cor­rup­tion of inves­ti­ga­tors and judges and their servi­tude to author­i­ties. Atambayev may walk free or claim the charges against him are polit­i­cal per­se­cu­tion. These claims may par­tial­ly be true with Bakiyev’s old homies back in power.

Author: Satina Aidar
is a lawyer from Kyrgyzstan, she writes here under a pseudonym.