Security services in Kyrgyzstan said Friday they had detained 15 “active members” of a coup plot involving lawmakers and former officials ahead of a parliamentary vote at the weekend.
The detained were part of a plan to get “1,000 aggressive young people” to protest the results of the vote, the state committee for national security said in a statement.
“After the announcement of the results of the upcoming parliamentary elections…this group planned to organise mass protests in (the capital) Bishkek and subsequently to aggravate the situation, provoking clashes with the forces of law and order and further violent seizure of power,” the statement said.
Security services “obtained irrefutable evidence of the criminal activity of a group of persons under the leadership of certain destructive political forces, including deputies of the (parliament) and former high-ranking officials.”
Without naming the detained, the committee also said it had “found and seized firearms, ammunition and drugs” in a raid on the alleged group’s office.
Kyrgyzstan, a poor, mountainous Central Asian country which has seen three presidents overthrown since its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, hopes to avoid further instability from the first parliamentary vote since unrest brought the current leader, Sadyr Japarov, to power last year.
– Independent candidates excluded –
After rising to the presidency from a prison cell during the last post-vote crisis, Japarov pledged to hold free and fair elections.
But electoral authorities have already excluded one candidate and fined another, both of whom are regarded as independent voices in the outgoing parliament.
The president was serving a sentence for hostage-taking prior to his release amid the protests over alleged vote-buying by pro-parties last year.
He has always insisted that the charges were a punishment for his campaign to nationalise a key gold mine upon which the largely resource-poor economy depends.
The new administration moved in May to seize the Kumtor mine from the Canadian company that controlled it, Centerra Gold, citing environmental violations.
Centerra, whose operations at Kumtor accounted for 12.5 percent of Kyrgyzstan’s gross domestic product in 2020, has denied the claims and is contesting the seizure in an international court.
Japarov’s critics have said the head of state is repeating the mistakes of his predecessors by arresting potential rivals after overseeing constitutional changes that strengthened his position.
Kyrgyzstan hosts a Russian military base and looks to next-door China for loans and investments.
Experts say it is unclear however how much trust the new enjoys from Russia, whose leader Vladimir Putin registered distaste at the street protests and sudden overthrow of then-president Sooronbay Jeenbekov.