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Is the Kyrgyzstan upheaval bad for the US?

Some Kyrgyz express anger with America for its relationship with the Bakiyev government.

According to Beknazarov, who is heading up an investigation into the Bakiyev family’s financial dealings, Maxim Bakiyev, the president’s son, is allegedly involved in the sale of fuel to the U.S. air base. If true, the arrangement could possibly have netted the Bakiyev family tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars. Beknazarov could provide no evidence for that claim, however, explaining that the inquiry was only in its first days.

The air base’s fuel commission is a sensitive subject in Kyrgyzstan. Bakiyev accused his predecessor Askar Akayev — who was driven from office in a popular uprising in 2005 — of funneling millions of dollars to his family through an identical arrangement.

After Akayev fled Kyrgyzstan, Bakiyev’s government petitioned the U.S. government to look into whether the former president illegally enriched himself and his family through two companies linked to his son and son-in-law. These companies transported and sold the fuel to another sub-contractor, which then provided it to the base. Kyrgyz officials at the time demanded that Washington compensate their country for about $80 million that they said the Akayevs pocketed personally. The case was quietly dropped after a short period however.

According to Beknazarov, who authored the original request asking the U.S. to open an FBI investigation into the matter, Maxim Bakiyev simply took over the interests from Akayev’s sons.

“He was unquestionably involved,” the new vice prime minister said. “He privatized for himself the entire country.”

The country’s new prosecutor, Baitemir Ibrayev, says however that he cannot say 100 percent if Bakiyev’s son was a part of selling fuel to the base. “I don’t want to talk about this matter right now, but the entire country has been discussing it,” he said. “I believe, however, that there was an objective reason for these stories.”

“We will check everything out, determine who did what, and then present our results,” he added.

U.S. officials, in past conversations, have insisted that Washington was not going soft on the Bakiyev government for its growing authoritarian behavior and human rights abuses. They also insisted that their discussions behind closed doors were much sharper than their public statements. Moreover, when questioned in the past, they insisted that they had no knowledge of any dealings between the U.S. military and the Bakiyev family.

(President Bakiyev, for his part, speaking to the Wall Street Journal from southern Kyrgyzstan, conceded that his son might have been involved in business with the base, but said no law was broken.)