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Kyrgyz leader cancels Russia visit, cites riot threat ahead of election
October 9, 2017 / 11:10 AM / 8 days ago

Kyrgyz leader cancels Russia visit, cites riot threat ahead of election

Kyrgyzstan's President Almazbek Atambayev addresses a news conference in Berlin, April 1, 2015. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch/File Photo

BISHKEK (Reuters) - Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev on Monday cancelled a planned visit to Russia this week, citing a threat of violent riots in the run-up to and during the central Asian state’s presidential election due on Oct. 15.

Atambayev had been due to attend a meeting of presidents of former Soviet republics in Russia on Oct.11-12, his office said in a statement.

Kyrgyzstan’s state security service last month detained a lawmaker who backs opposition presidential candidate Omurbek Babanov and accused the member of parliament of plotting riots and a violent coup.

“Taking into account the uncovered facts of mass riots involving criminals being planned for election day by certain politicians, and with such politicians receiving financial support from abroad, the president has decided to cancel his working visit in order to personally ensure order and security in the country,” Atambayev’s office said in a statement.

Atambayev did not name the country he says is supporting his opponents, but last month his government accused neighbouring Kazakhstan of backing Babanov and thus meddling in Kyrgyzstan’s domestic affairs.

Kazakhstan, which is much larger and more prosperous than Kyrgyzstan, has denied those accusations.

Atambayev, who has pulled Kyrgyzstan into Russia’s orbit during his six years in power, is preparing to step down as the constitution bars him from seeking a second term at the helm of the mostly Muslim nation of six million people.

Atambayev’s Social Democratic party, which currently heads a coalition government, is backing his ally, former prime minister Sooronbai Jeenbekov, in the presidential race.

Reporting by Olga Dzyubenko; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Gareth Jones

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