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International Journalists Discuss Revolution in Kyrgyzstan


Earlier this week, the former President of Kyrgyzstan Askar Akayev agreed to resign, but on Thursday (April 7) the Parliament delayed formal acceptance of his resignation. It also canceled a prior decision to hold presidential elections on June 26th. Political analysts are now speculating on the parallels between the so-called Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan and the earlier Rose Revolution in Georgia and Orange Revolution in Ukraine.

Dmitri Siderov, Washington bureau chief of Kommersant, a business and political daily in Moscow, said he perceives a change in the Kremlin’s position regarding revolutions in the former Soviet republics. Speaking with VOA New Now’s “International Press Club” host Judith Latham, Mr. Siderov said Russia is trying to demonstrate to the United States that it is still an “important player in the region.”

Nonetheless, he noted that the Kremlin feels threatened by “people power” in Georgia, Ukraine, and now Kyrgyzstan. Mr. Siderov said that a high-ranking government official recently confided to him that people in the Kremlin realize that they will lose most of the countries of the former Soviet Union and they fear the loss of their position in Central Asia. Dmitri Siderov said he sees a “constructive role” for both the United States and the European Union in the run-up to new elections in Kyrgyzstan, similar to their supporting role in Ukraine’s Orange Revolution – that is, by encouraging civil society.

Matthias Rueb, Washington bureau chief for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, agreed. But he cautioned that relations between America and Europe are complicated. And some European leaders are worried about what he calls the “great game developing between the Russians and the Americans” over which nation will exert the greatest influence over the geo-strategically important region. But Mr. Rueb noted that Europeans face a problem when criticizing the United States for meddling in other nations’ affairs because Europe finds itself so dependent on oil and gas imported from the former Soviet Union. He said the world is now witnessing a “second collapse” of the Soviet Union and a Russian president whose policies are in marked contrast to the democratic leader it had once hoped for. Mattheis Rueb suggested that it might be time for Europeans to rethink their own Russia policy.

Kyrgyz journalist and political analyst Alisher Khamidov, who is currently studying at the School of Advanced and International Studies in Washington, said he believes this week’s resignation of long-time leader Askar Akayev will enable his country to proceed toward democracy with greater “legitimacy.” But Mr. Khamidov also stressed that Kyrgyzstan faces serious challenges in restoring order and containing corruption. He said that “outside actors” might be of great help in these very tasks. According to Alisher Khamidov, the new government desperately needs technical assistance, financial help with agricultural reform, and training in better governance and, above all, training in law enforcement.

Mr. Khamidov said Kyrgyzstan wants to keep Russia as an ally while simultaneously developing “good relations” with the United States. He agreed with Dmitri Siderov of Kommersant and Matthias Rueb of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that the Kyrgyz revolution sent “shock waves” throughout Central Asia and other parts of the former Soviet Union. He further noted that leaders are clearly worried that the “explosion of public frustration in Kyrgyzstan” could stir citizens in other former Soviet republics to stage anti-government protests.

To listen to all of the comments, click on the audio link above.