Crossroads Asia

Kyrgyz Politics and the Killing of a Mob Boss in Belarus

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Crossroads Asia

Kyrgyz Politics and the Killing of a Mob Boss in Belarus

The murder of an expat crime figure hints at the links between the underworld and politics in Kyrgyzstan.

Kyrgyz Politics and the Killing of a Mob Boss in Belarus

Kyrgyzstan President Almazbek Atambayev

Credit: Presidential Press and Information Office, Kremlin

The killing of a top Kyrgyz gangster in Belarus remains a mystery, with the governments of Kyrgyzstan and Belarus resorting to swapped accusations. Although covered in the domestic press, the event has gone largely unremarked by the international media, perhaps given the murky circumstances surrounding the assassination itself. The murdered crime boss, Almanbet Anapiayev had been designated by the U.S. Treasury in 2012 “for acting for or on behalf of, or providing material support to, Kamychbek Kolbayev, who was designated under E.O. 13581 on February 23, 2012. Kolbayev had previously been designated under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act on June 1, 2011.

The U.S. government believes that Anapiayev was a crime figure associated with the Eurasian Crime syndicate, the Brother’s Circle. And according to the Treasury Department, “The Brothers’ Circle is one of five TCOs sanctioned under E.O. 13581, along with the Camorra, the Yakuza, Los Zetas, and MS-13.”

The killing of a mobster who was part of a powerful organized crime group in the post-Soviet states was not going to go unremarked. That was certainly the case in Kyrgyzstan, whose president Almazbek Atambayev launched a tirade against the government of Belarus, accusing it of harboring the alleged masterminds of the Anapiyaev’s murder, namely former Kyrgyz regime ruler Kurmanbek Bakiyev and his family, who have been residing in Minsk since the Kremlin backed the overthrow of the Kyrgyz regime in 2010. Indeed, Belarus Digest noted the unusually emotional character of the Kyrgyz President’s statement on the subject –

 “Who else do the Bakievs have to kill before Belarusian authorities will at last see the bestial and cannibalistic nature of this criminal family? Those monsters will shed blood anywhere, where they are, including Belarus, who has provided a shelter for them.”

For years, the Kyrgyz Republic’s new governments have been trying to bring runaway president Kurmanbek Bakiyev and his family members to justice. The efforts have been in vain, however, with the Bakiyevs finding refuge in the U.K. and Belarus.

Belarus fired back at Atambayev’s comments:

“It makes no sense to comment on the parallels and offensive statements made against Belarus by the Kyrgyz leadership. Such overheated emotional statements would not be possible at the level of the leader of a civilized state.

But even if we leave out their bias, pronouncing charges of felony of the highest order is contrary to accepted international standards of criminal justice. In any modern country, the constitution and laws stipulate that no one shall be held guilty of a crime until his guilt is proven by a legally effective court judgment. However, judging by the number of criminal trials held in Kyrgyzstan in absentia, the country as a whole has its own specific approach to justice.”

Noticeably, Anapiayev’s murder has coincided with the upcoming parliamentary elections in the Kyrgyz Republic. It is not the first time that well known Kyrgyz organized crime group figures have been assassinated near national elections. In May 2006, the nation’s top underworld boss Rysbek Akmatbayev was gunned down after winning a seat in parliament a month earlier. A government investigation failed to identify his killers. Another top gangster who was also a member of parliament, Bayaman Erkinbayev met a similar fate. Erkinbayev was shot and killed in September 2005. Erkinbayev, who was linked to the overthrow of the first regime, was expected to be re-elected in the April 2006 elections. Kyrgyz authorities have tied Erkinbayev’s murder to his criminal background and illegal activity. These killings of top underworld bosses were committed during the presidency of the now deposed Kyrgyz ruler Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who is also linked to numerous high profile killings of his political opponents in 2009.

Nonetheless, the identity of Anapiayev’s killers has yet to be identified, as the circumstances behind his assassination remain obscure. Law enforcement agencies in both Kyrgyzstan and Belarus are investigating the case, but already there seems to be discrepancies between the states over the identity of the suspects. Kyrgyz officials insist that the Bakiyevs are the perpetrators, whilst Belarus authorities have yet to reveal the status of the investigation. The Kyrgyz press has reported that Anapiayev was the senior underworld figure in the south of the country, dubbed by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) an “important drug trade hub along the Northern Route.” According to local media, Anapiayev’s criminal activity at one point was tied to the overthrown Kyrgyz ruler Kurmanbek Bakiyev’s brother, Janysh Bakiyev. Kyrgyz authorities accuse Janysh of running a drug trade during his brother’s presidency. Whether the Bakiyevs are behind Anapiayev’s murder or not, the Kyrgyz underworld certainly has influence in domestic affairs. A 2012 UNODC report concluded that, “large parts of the political and law enforcement establishment in … and Kyrgyzstan are seriously undermined by the involvement in the drug trade.

It is not unreasonable, then, to assume that organized crime is deeply involved in the political process in Kyrgyzstan. Regardless of the motives behind the assassination in Minsk, it is more than likely that the killing of Anapiayev will have an impact on the outcome of the parliamentary elections this year. In recent history, ruling parties in Kyrgyzstan have had a great deal of success in domestic elections. The upcoming elections show no sign of being any different, except that following Anapiayev’s assassination, the outcome will be more predictable.

Ryskeldi Satke is a contributing writer with research institutions and news organizations in Central Asia, Turkey and the U.S. Contact e-mail: rsatke at