BISHKEK (Reuters) – Police investigators summoned former Kyrgyz president Almazbek Atambayev for questioning on Monday, setting the stage for a stand-off between him and his successor, incumbent Sooronbai Jeenbekov, in the volatile Central Asian nation.
Jeenbekov, who came to power in 2017 with Atambayev’s support and used to be his close ally, sidelined his predecessor last year by reshuffling senior security officials and wresting control over the ruling party out of Atambayev’s hands.
An escalation of the conflict between the two could be of concern to Russia which has a military air base in the former Soviet republic and counts it among its closest political allies. Atambayev dismissed the summons as illegal.
Kyrgyzstan’s parliament voted last month to strip Atambayev of immunity normally enjoyed by former heads of state.
On Monday, the investigative unit of the interior ministry summoned Atambayev to its headquarters for questioning on Tuesday morning as a witness, without saying what the summons was linked to.
He has not yet been charged with any crimes, but some of his allies have been charged with corruption and abuse of office and parliament, and state prosecutors have said they could investigate similar allegations against Atambayev.
Atambayev, 62, who has taken part in two violent revolts which overthrew his predecessors in 2005 and 2010, said he would ignore the summons.
“I am not even going to touch and read these papers, the government must first start following the law,” he said in a video posted online.
“I am not going to play along in this circus.”
Since the parliament moved to strip him of immunity, Atambayev has mostly stayed in his home village just outside the capital, Bishkek, surrounded by up to a few hundred supporters some of whom carried firearms in front of reporters.
(Reporting by Olga Dzyubenko; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Alison Williams)