For years industry observers have asserted that environmental protests outside the Canadian-run Kumtor Gold Mine in Kyrgyzstan’s eastern mountains were part of an elaborate shakedown scheme. Now a video has emerged that appears to substantiate this view.
Kyrgyzstan’s State Committee on National Security (GKNB) announced the opening of a criminal investigation after the video appeared on state television August 28, purporting to show two men who had previously voiced environmental concerns demanding $3 million from a Kumtor representative in exchange for an apparent guarantee not to orchestrate protests. The video purportedly has a time stamp of July 31.
The video’s appearance on state television suggests that central government officials in Bishkek are intent not only on solidifying their hold on power, but want to forge a stronger working relationship with Kumtor’s operators, and, more broadly, boost foreign-investor confidence shaken by regular mining-related riots. GKNB representatives declined to address the video’s provenance.
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David Trilling is EurasiaNet's Central Asia editor.