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Second former PM charged over Kyrgyz power plant collapse

© AFP/File | Former Kyrgyzstan prime minister Zhantoro Satybaldiyev has been arrested on corruption charges linked to a key power plant in Bishkek

BISHKEK (KYRGYZSTAN) (AFP) - 

A former prime minister of Kyrgyzstan has been arrested and charged with corruption following a scandal that saw a power plant fail as temperatures plummeted in the ex-Soviet nation last winter.

Zhantoro Satybaldiyev is the second ex-premier to be arrested in relation to the $400-million (350-million-euro) modernisation programme of the main power plant in the capital Bishkek.

Satybaldiyev was also charged with "abetting a crime" and will remain in custody during the course of the investigation, Kyrgyzstan's state committee for national security said late Wednesday.

The move follows the arrest earlier this month of ex-premier Sapar Isakov on charges of lobbying in the interest of TBEA, a Chinese company that later won the contract to carry out the multi-million-dollar renovation.

The power plant collapsed in January, just months after the project's completion, triggering a public uproar.

Both Satybaldiyev and Isakov served as presidential chiefs of staff under Kyrgyzstan's ex-leader Almazbek Atambayev before being parachuted into the position of prime minister in 2012 and 2017 respectively.

Local analysts have connected their arrests to their close ties with Atambayev who was expected to retain influence after presidential elections in October but has instead become embroiled in a power struggle with successor Sooronbai Jeenbekov.

Atambayev, who was barred by the nation's constitution from running for re-election complained earlier this month that the investigation into the power plant was politically motivated.

Jeenbekov's administration has said that the investigations into the power plant deal that was made possible thanks to a loan from China's Export-Import Bank would not affect relations with top lender Beijing.

© 2018 AFP