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Kyrgyzstan: Business, Corruption and the Manas Airbase

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Kyrgyzstan's mass anti-government protests last week were essentially the culmination of more than a decade of disillusionment and dissatisfaction that accumulated in the nation's political, economic and social spheres from the period of Akayev to his successor Kurmanbek Bakiyev, with virtually every Kyrgyz concerned about rising prices and falling standards of living, both issues of little concern and dimly understood in Washington.

BAKIYEV FLEES

The diplomatic logjam over the fate of deposed President Kurbanbek Bakiyev has apparently ended, as on 15 April Russia's Itar-Tass news agency reported that Bakiyev, along with his younger brother Dzhanysh, former head of the country's feared National Security Service (NSS) and the presidential guard and former Defense Minister Bakytbek Kalyev had fled the country. Kazakh Foreign Ministry Spokesman Kazakhstan Askar Abdyrakhmanov subsequently confirmed that their military aircraft arrived in Taras, Kazakhstan. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) office in Bishkek issued a statement that Bakiyev left "as a result of joint efforts by President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, (U.S. President) Barack Obama and the Russian Federation (President) Dmitrii Medvedev, as well as the active mediation of the OSCE, the UN and the EU." According to interim government member Almambek Shykmamotov, Bakiyev was allowed to leave the country after signing a formal resignation statement.

While Kyrgyzstan's political impasse has been resolved by Bakiyev's sudden departure, expect to see furious behind the scenes politicking in Bishkek, particularly between Russia and the U.S. as both attempt to strengthen their influence with interim Prime Minister Roza Otumbayev's administration at the expense of the other.

Two issues are likely to dominate Kyrgyzstan's political scene in upcoming weeks negotiating as much foreign aid as possible and recovering as much of the money looted by the Bakiyev kleptocracy as possible.

FISCAL DEPREDATIONS BY THE BAKIYEV FAMILY

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The scale of the fiscal depredations of Bakiyev's inner circle is quite startling for a country of only 5 million people. According to Natsional'nyi bank Kyguzstana Acting Chairman Zair Chokoev, during the period 7-8 April, when the unrest peaked, the country's largest commercial bank, AziiaUniversalBanke (AUB), controlled by Bakiyev's son Maksim, sent $200 million out of the country.

Such thievery has had an immediate impact on the country's finances; provisional Finance Minister Temir Sariyev said that as the result of such depredations, the country's budget deficit will amount to over $20 million in April alone.

Again outpacing Washington, on 14 April Russian Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin announced that Russia was Kyrgyzstan an immediate grant of $20 million and a soft loan of $30 million, commenting, "I think it is possible to provide humanitarian aid - a grant of $ 20 million for the priority of payments for social support"now, collection of customs and tax payments to ensure the ongoing costs of government in Kyrgyzstan is weak."

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WASHINGTON'S INTERIM POLICY

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