Kyrgyzstan's opposition said yesterday it had seized power in the impoverished and strategically important central Asian state after an uprising forced Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev to flee the capital.
Roza Otunbayeva, leader of the interim government, demanded the resignation of the president, whom she helped propel to power five years ago.
She said Bakiyev, who fled while security forces fired on protesters besieging government buildings in bloody clashes in Bishkek, was trying to rally supporters in his power base in southern Kyrgyzstan.
“What we did yesterday was our answer to the repression and tyranny against the people by the Bakiyev regime,” said Otunbayeva, who once served as Bakiyev's foreign minister.
“You can call this revolution. You can call this a people's revolt. Either way, it is our way of saying that we want justice and democracy,” she told reporters.
Bishkek awoke to blazing cars and burned-out shops yesterday after a day in which at least 75 people were killed in the clashes between protesters and security forces.
Plumes of smoke billowed from the White House, the main seat of government, as crowds rampaged through the seven-story building, setting several rooms on fire. Looting was widespread.
The uprising, which began on Tuesday in a provincial town, was sparked by discontent over corruption, nepotism and rising utility prices in a nation where a third of the 5.3 million population live below the poverty line.
The US and Russia both have military bases in Kyrgyzstan and are, along with China, major donors to the former Soviet state. NATO said flights from the US base in support of its operations in Afghanistan were suspended because of the unrest.
Russia was quick to recognize Otunbayeva's takeover. Washington declined to comment on the recognition. China said only that it was deeply disturbed by the unrest.
The EU said the country was “entering a new phase,” but stopped short of embracing the interim government.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's spokesman said Otunbayeva had told him by telephone she was in full control of the country and he saw her as “the new head of government.”
Putin earlier denied Moscow had played a hand in the clashes and Otunbayeva said the new government would allow the US base in the Kyrgyz city of Manas to continue to operate, while adding that “some questions” over it would be resolved.
Bakiyev announced the base would close during a visit to Moscow last year at which he also secured US$2 billion in crisis aid, only to agree later to keep the base open at a higher rent.
Bakiyev fled Bishkek to southern Kyrgyzstan, his traditional power base in a nation split by clan rivalries.
A witness said he arrived late on Wednesday at the airport in Osh, and Otunbayeva said later he was in his home region of Jalalabad.
“We want to negotiate his resignation,” she said. “His business here is over ... The people who were killed here yesterday are the victims of his regime.”
She said the interim government controlled the whole country, except for Osh and Jalalabad.
Armed forces and border guards supported the new government, she said.
There has been no word from Bakiyev and his spokesmen were not available.
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