While Putin was off commemorating the 70th anniversary of the massacre of 20,000 Polish officers by Russian secret police at Katyn, Kyrgyzstan was going up in the flames of revolution.
By nightfall, the opposition — still unclear who they are and how they differ from the ousted government, which had also come to power on the crest of a revolution — had seized control of key parts of the capital, Bishkek. The Kyrgyz president Kurmanbek Bakiyev and his defense minister had fled, the opposition had taken over the city’s television stations, the Internal Ministry, had killed its head, and stormed the government palace. By last count, 47 people are dead and over 400 wounded. The Americans, who paid good money for a military base there — conveniently close to their fight in Afghanistan — are fretting over what would happen to it.
Prime Minister Putin, meanwhile, issued a weird statement from Katyn: We got nothing to do with this one, folks.
“Not Russia, not your humble servant — Russian officials have nothing to do with these events,” Putin said at a press conference.
“Whatever is happening there is the internal business of Kyrgyzstan,” he said. “The only thing I call for is for the official powers — and the opposition — to show restraint and not use force.”
Strange for a country that was widely seen to have had major influence on the internal affairs of the Kyrgyz when the conveniently decided to close the American military base at Manas and accept $2 billion of Russian money instead. (The decision was later reversed when the Americans coughed more money.)
He added another little nugget of wisdom. He reminded his audience that President Bakiyev was a very harsh critic of the president he ousted. “I have the impression,” Putin said, “that Mr. Bakiyev is stepping on the very same rake.”