Former prime minister of Kyrgyzstan Sapar Isakov has been indicted and barred from leaving the country on corruption charges relating to a power station that hit the headlines when it malfunctioned and left inhabitants of the capital Bishkek exposed to the winter cold for days.
Kyrgyz State Committee for National Security official Rakhat Sulaimanov announced the charges on May 30. They are based on Isakov’s involvement in the construction of the Bishkek Thermal Power Plant, which started in 2013. He is accused of lobbying for the interests of a Chinese company, TBEA, which won the tender to build the power plant.
However, although plenty of recriminations flew after the facility broke down last winter, the pursuit of Isakov in relation to the matter is seen in many quarters as simply an official excuse to go after him. It is Isakov’s closeness to ex-president Almazbek Atambayev that is widely seen as the main reason behind the interrogations prior to the charges and the sacking of him and his cabinet in mid-April by current Kyrgyz President Sooranbai Jeenbekov, who succeeded Atambayev last November.
The corruption charges came after three rounds of questioning by the state security services. Isakov claimed innocence, saying the case was "completely illegal."
Prior to indicting Isakov, the authorities pressed corruption charges against a former Bishkek mayor and ally of Atambayev and even made moves to directly target Atambayev himself –on May 17 lawmakers placed him on a list of officials who might be responsible for the power plant breakdown.
Jeenbekov, appears to be set on completely dismantling any influence Atambayev may have left in the country in an apparent power struggle, with the cards mostly stacked against his predecessor. While both Atambayev and Jeenbekov belong to the same party, most Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan (SDPK) party members appear to be aligned with Jeenbekov—that includes SDPK members of parliament who control the ruling coalition.
When Jeenbekov came to power, many saw him as Atambayev’s stooge, with the former president having supported him during the elections last year. But their relationship took an unexpected turn after Atambayev publicly criticised him in March, even though his criticisms were seemingly mild. Atambayev had remarked that he "has to engage in politics again” in order to assist Jeenbekov and prepare the party for the 2020 parliamentary elections. Opponents have claimed it was a step towards realising what they describe as an alleged plan to rule from the shadows.
On April 7, Jeenbekov dismissed the head of the State Committee for National Security Abdil Segizbayev and deputy security chief Bolot Suiumbayev, two other officials seen as loyal to Jeenbekov's predecessor.
While Atambayev, who calls Jeenbekov an “old friend”, said during the March 31 event it was necessary to say “harsh words” about new president Jeenbekov in order to help him rule, the latter possibly took the criticisms personally.