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Kyrgyzstan’s ex-president remanded in custody amid mass protests

Kyrgyzstan’s former president Almazbek Atambayev was remanded in custody on corruption allegations on Friday as his supporters waged mass protests overnight near his residence and in the capital, Bishkek.

An officer was fatally shot while police forces attempted to storm Atambayev’s residence outside Bishkek earlier this week as supporters of the embattled former leader of this ex-Soviet republic in Central Asia gathered outside.

More than 80 people were injured in the operation, local media and Russian state news agencies reported.

Atambayev surrendered to authorities on Thursday in an effort to prevent further bloodshed.

After Atambayev was taken into custody, supporters marched through the town of Koy-Tash, where the residence is located.

They smashed the windows of parked cars and “completely burned” a police station, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

Another protest in the capital was dispersed by police forces, the Interior Ministry said.

Media reports estimated the number of protesters as several hundred.

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The allegations against Atambayev, who served from 2011 to 2017, have surfaced amid an escalation in an apparent personal rivalry with his successor, current President Sooronbay Jeenbekov.

Both politicians are of the same centre-left party, the Social Democrats.

“It has been clear for some time that a stand-off between the current and former presidents was inevitable, especially after Atambayev said he would not work with the current president and would seek to ‘work around him,” Eurasia expert, Chris Weafer, said.

“The country was facing the prospect of two governments under the elected president and the former president,” said Weafer, a Senior Partner at the Eurasia-focused Investment Firm Macro-Advisory.

Russian Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev, offered support to Jeenbekov during a meeting in the Kyrgyz resort town of Cholpon-Ata as the country hosts economic talks with several fellow former Soviet states.

“We are truly striving to provide assistance and support to our friend and partner, the Republic of Kyrgyzstan,” Medvedev told the Kyrgyz president, according to an official transcript.

“This is how it will be. Do not doubt this,” Medvedev said.

Atambayev previously sought support from Russian President Vladimir Putin with a meeting in the Kremlin in July as the corruption allegations mounted.

After that meeting, Putin expressed support for Jeenbekov, saying: “Everyone should unite around the sitting president.” (NAN)