BISHKEK -- Protesters in Kyrgyzstan are making it clear what they think of Russian President Vladimir Putin's heavy-handed policies toward their country.
Demonstrators gathered outside the Russian embassy in Bishkek Wednesday (March 27), a day before Putin arrived on a one-day state visit to Kyrgyzstan, holding posters calling him a "killer" and an "occupier", and called for Russia to leave Kant, the military base it controls in Kyrgyzstan.
Police broke up the protest and arrested two individuals, Nurlan Karymshakov and Gulzana Imayeva, who are husband and wife, AFP reported.
Kyrgyz police confirmed the arrests but did not provide further details.
"They have been charged with inciting inter-ethnic hatred," lawyer Zamir Jooshev said, who called the charges "complete nonsense". The pair could receive up to 10 years in prison.
Expanding Russia's footprint in Kyrgyzstan
Russia has operated the Kant air base in Chui Province since 2003, as well as a torpedo testing facility on Lake Issyk-Kul since the 1940s.
With Putin in town, the prospect of yet another Russian military base in Kyrgyzstan is looming.
Russia is "ready to discuss" the opening of a second base in Kyrgyzstan, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in Kyrgyzstan in February, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE).
Rumours of a second base to be built in the south have been circulating for months.
As for Kant, Russia announced it is expanding the territory of the military base by 60 hectares.
Deals over Russian military bases highlight the Kremlin's exploitation of resource-poor Kyrgyzstan's economic hardships. In 2012, for example, Kyrgyzstan extended Moscow's lease of the Kant base by 15 years in exchange for Russia cancelling almost $500 million (34.9 billion KGS) in debt.
Kremlin refuses to leave Central Asia
Even though the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, Russian forces remain present in many former Soviet republics, including Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Spreading fear in Central Asia about regional security is a method of asserting military and political control and of avoiding dealing with problems at home, according to local analysts.
In Kyrgyzstan, Russia's lingering presence has aroused criticism before.
Kyrgyz were outraged last year when Russian forces conducted live-fire training around scenic Lake Issyk-Kul, the country's main tourist attraction.
Russian forces pounded "hostile positions" in the mountains around Issyk-Kul with an Iskander-M short-range ballistic missile system.
In Tajikistan, Russia operates the 201st Military Base, its largest military installation abroad. Russia and impoverished Tajikistan signed an agreement in 2012 that keeps the base open till 2042 -- 51 years after the Soviet Union's end.
Ordinary citizens' outrage
Many Kyrgyz are decrying the red carpet rolled out for Putin and the harsh treatment of protesters during his visit.
"Kyrgyzstan is a country that claims to be evolving into a democracy," Kara-Balta businessman Bolot Iskenderov told Caravanserai. "We've always been able to criticise our authorities and the president ... Why can't we criticise Vladimir Putin and his regime?"
"Look at the poster and read the text," Ukrainian human-rights analyst Dmitry Kabak posted to the Russian-language Facebook group "Independent Kyrgyzstan". "Can anybody see any signs of incitement of hatred and discord there?"
"There's no corpus delicti at all," Bishkek resident Aleksandr Tebenkov posted to the same Facebook group. "These people expressed their political opinion and didn't violate public order."
[Kanat Altynbayev contributed to this article.]
Putin and Russia are occupiers. Well said.Reply
The article was written by a pseudo-liberal who was lavishly paid by the US State Dept. Our people's belief is contrary to what this hack writer penned. We respect and love Putin. And nobody even knows who the faggots were holding the posters in the square. One should ask the US embassy to tell who they are; the embassy knows them for sure.Reply
Putin is bad, he sold out Russia to ChineseReply
We need to build the GREAT USSR again. Even if it's not time, it'll happen sooner or later, and we are going down this path. The EUROPEAN UNION is today's USSR. I worked in Russia for many years, and joining [Russia] makes sense to me because there are no jobs in Kyrgyzstan, people live on their own, the authorities are very poor and don't do shit. We could work in Kyrgyzstan and have decent salaries like in Russia if we joined them.Reply
You need to learn Russian firstReply
So what's the problem? Are you saying everybody needs to speak Russian to build the Great USSR? Trust me, in the next 1,000,000 years it's not going to be an issue.Reply
Indeed, Russia should leave Kyrgyzstan alone, let them labour hard and make cannons from sh.t protecting their borders, drive all the Kyrgyz out of Russia, so that they work home, and forget about Kyrgyzstan for good. Let them ask America and Ukraine for help. How can you say such things!Reply
You dumb wog, Russia will never abandon the Fraternal people who protected Moscow during WW2. And we'll send some shit over to you, so you can pour it on your head yourself.Reply
Why build up bases in Kyrgyzstan or other countries, I wonder. What are they getting ready for? Rulers initiate wars. Why should ordinary people fight for them and why do we have to scrape by because of them?Reply
Bases are built to protect you spongers a short distance away from the Russian border. You gotta think strategically...Reply
Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin is great. He is a savvy protector of innocent people. He has his forces everywhere on earth. He knows and can do everything, be it small or big. It has been going on for centuries and cost countless lives of our compatriots - we were always in step with and followed Russia. We know and remember it all. Russia honours fallen soldiers and our mothers. Don't dance to a stranger's tuneReply
That's right, you rock! I agree!Reply
The USA absolutely means development and technologies and Russia has even managed to turn the DPR [The Donetsk People's Republic] into Somalia.Reply
You stupid woman. Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yugoslavia, Ukraine, Venezuela etc. This evil comes from the USAReply
What a reasonable occupier, they wrote off debts and financed development! Just wait for the Yanks, they will turn the Kyrgyz into faggots and junkies!Reply
Go f... yourselfReply
It looks like their arguments have run out.Reply
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan need to resolve their issues themselves. Russia should not interfere. Cooperation is always welcome.Reply
Leave us alone with your Russia. Deport all the migrants back home, institute visas, remove your bases, let us leave the Customs Union.Reply
Only two gathered at the embassy but they were supported by manyReply
Thanks to the authors for the objective coverage of the events in our region. Respectfully, administrator of a Facebook group "Independent Kyrgyzstan/Egemenduu Kyrgyzstan (KpTS)"Reply
Putin is an occupier. TrueReply
You fool, without Putin, the Yanks would eat up Kyrgyzstan or pit [Kyrgyz] against Uzbeks.Reply
Why are you protesting? No pain no gain. You've got the green light everywhere in Russia. A Kyrgyz commits a crime, but a Tajik is accused. You roam Russia freely, you work comfortably and make good money for renting out the base. But you will also pay somehow for all this and not make a fuss. Take the beam out of your eye and then find the speck [in someone else's eye]Reply
You mean Russians never commit crimes in Kyrgyzstan? But you would immediately run to the embassy. And don't blame us for working [in Russia], you don't pay us. The time will come when you invite us to work, but we will tell you that we don't want to.Reply
You need to have a job for that.Reply
"Many [Kyrgyz] citizens" means a family of two :)))Reply
It was the Kremlin that organized bullying of the Kyrgyz migrants in Yakutia. It was a message to the Kyrgyz president to obey Putin and his orders. And then he came to Kyrgyzstan to issue those orders.Reply
What is this nonsense, are you dumb? Why are you clinging to [the story] of these two? Without Russia [extremists] will make their way out of Afghanistan. They aren't going to care much locking [people] up in dungeons or worse. Where did you leave your brains, you armchair critics? I'm sorry, this is my heart's cry.Reply
Horrible what these government boneheads have come to.Reply
Disregard their stupid provocations. Be reasonable!
Kyrgyz should be taught a lesson. They need to learn firsthand what a 'zindan' means. Otherwise, they will never understand it. ['Zindan' means 'prison' in Eastern countries. Often it's very primitive and inhumane - a dungeon or even a ground pit where criminals keep their hostages]Reply