9 Aug 2019 12:27

Kyrgyz opposition leader Babanov arrives in Bishkek

BISHKEK. Aug 9 (Interfax) - Kyrgyz opposition politician Omurbek Babanov returned to Bishkek on Friday, an Interfax correspondent reported.

He was greeted by around 500 supporters upon arrival at Bishkek's Manas Airport.

The police presence at the airport has been increased in order to maintain public order there.

Babanov returned to Kyrgyzstan a day after the detention of the country's former President Almazbek Atambayev, who turned himself in to the authorities after two days of clashes between his supporters and special forces.

Babanov also called on his supporters to observe public order and not to yield to provocations.

"What counts most today is the unity of the people," the opposition leader said.

Babanov declared his intention to return to Kyrgyzstan in April but called off the departure from Moscow for fear of provocations.

Babanov was quite popular in Kyrgyzstan. He gained over 600,000 votes in the presidential election in October 2017 and ranked second after incumbent President Sooronbai Jeenbekov.

He was elected to parliament in October 2015 on the Respublika-Ata Zhurt ticket and headed the same-name faction until the end of 2017.

On November 4, 2017, the Kyrgyz Prosecutor General's Office indicted Babanov on counts of public appeals for overthrowing the constitutional system and inciting ethnic, racial, or religious enmity during the presidential campaign. The politician left Kyrgyzstan before the criminal proceeding was initiated, and resigned as the parliament faction leader in a later period.

According to the Kyrgyz media, Babanov is one of the richest people in Kyrgyzstan.

Babanov was elected to the Kyrgyz parliament on the Republic-Ata Zhurt party's list of candidates in October 2015 and headed the Republic-Ata Zhurt parliamentary faction until the end of 2017.