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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Akayev Blames U.S. for Kyrgyz Uprising

APOusted President Askar Akayev
Former Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev on Thursday accused the United States of engineering his ouster to expand its clout in Central Asia and warned that the regime change could encourage Islamic radicals to overthrow secular governments in the region.

In an interview, Akayev said Washington wanted to project influence in Central Asia and was apparently vexed by his efforts to balance U.S., Russian and Chinese interests in the region.

"I did everything to balance the interests of the three great powers," said Akayev, who fled to Russia after the March 24 uprising. "But the United States doesn't want a balance. Americans want [others] to have a clear orientation on Washington."

While in office, Akayev allowed U.S. military deployment in Kyrgyzstan for operations in Afghanistan, but later also allowed Russia to open a military air base just 30 kilometers from the U.S. base.

One reason for the U.S. discontent was "our pro-Russian foreign policy," Akayev said.

He said he had fallen out of favor with Washington when he decided to host the Russian base.

"The United States apparently decided that it hurt its interests," Akayev said. "That marked the start of the preparation of plans for my ouster."

Akayev was speaking at a country residence outside Moscow provided by the Russian government.

He said Kyrgyzstan's rampant poverty and unemployment helped fuel a popular uprising, but added that "foreign factors played the key role." He said a dozen U.S. nongovernmental organizations, including Freedom House and the National Republican Institute, helped stage the regime change, and "their efforts clearly have been coordinated by the U.S. Embassy."

The U.S. administration has denied allegations of instigating the uprising in Kyrgyzstan, which followed similar regime changes in Georgia and Ukraine. In all three countries, the unrest was triggered by allegations of vote fraud and widespread allegations of official corruption.

Akayev, who ruled for 14 years, had taken the helm in Kyrgyzstan a year before it gained independence in the 1991 Soviet collapse. Under him, the country was widely viewed as being more open and democratic than other former Soviet republics in Central Asia. But Akayev came under increasing criticism for cracking down on the opposition.

He dismissed the accusations of authoritarianism in the interview, saying the country had dozens of political parties, hundreds of independent media outlets and thousands of NGOs, and argued that it was actually the high level of Kyrgyzstan's democratic development that facilitated the regime change.

"Kyrgyzstan was a good place for staging a revolution because it had ... free media and an active opposition," he said. "Kyrgyzstan was a convenient venue for conducting a revolution and it could serve as a springboard for exporting it to other Central Asian nations."

He spoke with bitterness about what he called the U.S. role in his ouster and warned that it could backfire, undermining regional stability in the volatile region, which is simmering with Islamic extremism. "Attempts to accelerate democratic processes in Central Asia without paying attention to local traditions ... and the Islamic factor was a mistake," he said. "I honestly was taking the nation along the democratic path, but time and patience were needed for democracy to take root. The United States lacked patience, and it didn't give us time."

Akayev said the rulers of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan would learn lessons from the events in Kyrgyzstan and successfully resist any attempts to chase them from power.