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Ex-President of Kyrgyzstan Is Arrested on Graft Charges After Deadly Clashes

MOSCOW — The police in Kyrgyzstan detained the Central Asian nation’s former president on Thursday after violent clashes with his supporters, a day after a previous attempt to arrest him left one police officer dead and nearly 80 other people wounded.

The former president, Almazbek Atambayev, who was in office from 2011 to 2017, has accused his successor and onetime protégé, Sooronbay Jeenbekov, of fabricating criminal charges against him to stifle criticism. Mr. Atambayev had urged his supporters to rally on Thursday in the capital, Bishkek, to demand Mr. Jeenbekov’s resignation.

The violence has raised the threat of a new round of turmoil in the former Soviet nation, which has a border with China and hosts a Russian military air base. Kyrgyzstan’s first two presidents after independence were both driven from office by riots.

The first attempt by the police to arrest Mr. Atambayev at his residence outside the capital failed late Wednesday after his supporters rushed to his defense. An officer who was wounded later died, and 79 other people were hurt, according to official statements.

Mr. Atambayev’s supporters took six police officers as hostages, but released them on Thursday.

Shopping malls and other businesses shut down on Thursday ahead of the planned rallies, reflecting fears of a repeat of widespread looting that had accompanied earlier protests.

But instead of rallying in Bishkek, Mr. Atambayev’s supporters changed course and headed back to his countryside residence to fend off the attempt to arrest him. Thousands of police officers armed with water cannons and stun grenades eventually overwhelmed their resistance.

Mr. Atambayev dismissed the slew of charges made against him, including corruption and the expropriation of property, calling the accusations “absurd.”

He said he fired several shots when officers tried to arrest him on Wednesday, adding that he “tried not to hit people.”

Addressing an emergency parliamentary session to discuss the crisis, Mr. Jeenbekov said that Mr. Atambayev should face charges for firing at the police.

The Kremlin has called for restraint.

The Russian foreign intelligence chief, Sergei Naryshkin, warned that the tensions had reached a “dangerous scale,” and Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry, urged the opposing parties to show “responsibility and common sense.”

Mr. Atambayev traveled to Russia last month and met with President Vladimir V. Putin in an apparent attempt to rally support, but the Russian leader later reaffirmed that Moscow was committed to working with Mr. Jeenbekov.


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