Kyrgyzstan and Belarus – USSR 2.0 failed
The recent developments in the former Soviet republics of Kyrgyzstan and Belarus could mean the influence of the Kremlin is weakening.
On October 4th, the people of Kyrgyzstan participated in parliamentary elections. As a result, four parties climbed to power, with three of them being directly related to the current government of the country and declaring pro-Russian politics. Oddly to say, not a single major opposition party crossed the 7 per cent threshold. 12 parties reported massive electoral fraud and bribery. After just one day, large protests broke out in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan’s capital, which were initially peaceful but instantaneously escalated into clashes between protesters and the police. As the confrontation intensified, the White House (where the parliament and presidential administration are located), the mayor’s office and the government building were occupied by the protesters. Demonstrators released former President Atambayev and a number of ex-officials who were subjected to political repression. The current pro-Russian president, Jeenbekov, denounced an attempt to seize power (like Lukashenko did). But the Central Electoral Commission declared the election results invalid (new elections will be held within 2 weeks) and thus sided with ordinary citizens of the republic. Considering the abovementioned events, it’s clear that in just one day protesters managed to achieve the key goal — cancellation of the election results. Furthermore, people still demand the resignation of the president and changes to the government. Over the past 15 years, this is not the first revolution in Kyrgyzstan, but the third (an overthrow of presidents took place in 2005 and 2010). Accordingly, people know exactly what they need to do and how to convey their messages to the authorities. Judging by the lightning speed of the revolution, nothing will stop the demonstrators, and impeachment of the president is only a matter of time. On October 7th, Kyrgyz parliamentarians launched the procedure of impeachment, and now it’s up to the deputies — they either support the start of the process or face the consequences.
Representatives from 13 parties created the Coordination Council of the Kyrgyz opposition in order to restore the legal system in the country, create a national unity government and create equal conditions for all political parties. The widespread use of administrative resources, massive bribery of votes and fake counting of election results were the major reasons for the establishment of the Coordination Center. In addition, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights expressed concern about “credible allegations of vote-buying” in the parliamentary elections in Kyrgyzstan.
For almost three decades, since independence from the USSR, Kyrgyzstan has remained highly dependent on trade with the Russian Federation and, accordingly, on Russian loans and other financial aid. This cooperation alone has several huge side effects, such as weakness and instability of the economy and massive poverty and unemployment. Roughly speaking, every fourth Kyrgyz lives below the poverty line. It is time for the Kyrgyzstan authorities to change their minds and think about the need for economic reforms and attracting new investors. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has already manifested a deep interest in its western neighbor (they share a land border) and is ready to work with Kyrgyzstan as opposed to other international actors, including the current main partner – Russia. Most likely, tired of the low standard of living, the Kyrgyz people will take a pragmatic position and start doing what will be useful for their economy. Of course, this will play into the hands of China and weaken the influence of Russia, which is already entering a period of decline.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union and Vladimir Putin’s coming to power in the Russian Federation, the whole world could spectate the policy of “reunification” of the former Soviet republics in a USSR 2.0, regardless of whether they wanted it or not. However, instead of the unhindered absorption of the post-Soviet republics, there was a “parade of color revolutions” with a significant anti-Russian background. This is not the first alarm bell for the Putin regime. First it was Georgia, then Ukraine, Belarus and Kyrgyzstan. But this is just the beginning. The nations that were part of the USSR have fully tasted, and have long since figured out, what friendship and partnership with Russia is all about. It is both economic and political instability, encouraging the violation of human rights and freedoms and most importantly, the complete absence of any development. The situations in Belarus and Kyrgyzstan now clearly confirm this thesis. Those who deal with Moscow and get the Kremlin’s promises, or even guarantees, about ensuring stability and investments in industry often face crisis and devastation, because this is the only thing that the Russian authorities need — micromanagement — over weakened (and therefore incapable of ensuring their sovereignty) post-Soviet republics, which then should unite around “strong and fraternal” Russia.
In Belarus, mass rallies of hundreds of thousands, after non-recognition of the presidential elections, have been taking place for two months already. After the intervention of Russia, namely, comprehensive assistance to the illegitimate “President” Lukashenko, things are only getting worse. Atrocities against peaceful demonstrators intensified, the number of detentions increased, the accreditation of foreign journalists was revoked and torture became one of the main methods of intimidation. It’s obvious that Russia is not saving Lukashenko personally, but Moscow offers a helping hand to his regime for the realisation of Putin’s long-standing goal – unification with Belarus and the creation of a Union State. While Lukashenko refused to fully integrate Belarus into Russia before the elections, now he will have to do everything to stay in power. In Belarus, and likewise in Kyrgyzstan, there are no obvious leaders or people who are present and coordinate the crowd movements of the protests. People do everything chaotically without specific coordination. But the Kyrgyz people have clearly shown how to fight for their political rights. Everything needs to be done as quickly as possible, and what is more important – unexpectedly, even if there are no actual leaders in the crowd. It’s worth noting the words of Galnara Dzhurabaeva, a member of the Central Election Commission of Kyrgyzstan, “I believe that with this election campaign we have discredited ourselves, and therefore the best and most correct decision in this case would be the early resignation.” Unlike the Central Election Commission of Belarus, Kyrgyz colleagues have honor, conscience and are able to admit their mistakes and listen to people.
A further “parade of revolutions” is definitely inevitable. It means not only changes in a country itself, but weakening of the Kremlin’s sphere of influence and an indicator that the Russians can no longer maintain a hold upon what has been in Moscow’s orbit for the last century. The Russian Federation is like a statue of the Colossus of Rhodes – its shadow is ginormous, but the structure itself is unstable and uncertain. But one thing is clear – every failed project to “reunite” and retain the sphere of influence brings us closer to a strong wind of change, which will bring down the principal structure, namely, Putin’s regime.
Maksym Skrypchenko is a cofounder of Ukrainian Translatlantic Platform and a Deputy Director of Security Initiative Center residing in Kyiv. His main areas of expertise are conflictology, Eastern Europe, Ukraine-EU and Ukraine-NATO relations.
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