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Kyrgyzstan’s Post Coup Chaos Flares On

The third day of another Kyrgyz revolution has passed but things are far from over. According to multiple reports, people have been killed and injured while aggressive drunks have control of the streets of various cities while private houses and shops are being looted. The latest news reports bloody clashes between police and anti-government protesters in Bishkek resulted in 68 people shot dead. There are also victims in other cities. Over 500 people were injured and Bishkek hospitals were filled with patients in dire need of blood.

Interior Minister Moldomusa Kongantiyev and First Deputy Prime Minister Akylbek Zhaparov were severely beaten by protesters in the town of Talas, where the unrest began on Tuesday, the Ferghana.ru news service reported. The Kyrgyz Interior Ministry denied reports that Kongantiyev had died of his injuries.

The protesters set fire to the prosecutor’s office and looted state television headquarters. Kyrgyz state television and state-controlled Channel Five have suspended broadcasting, reports Interfax.

The local White House has been taken over by opposition forces and Roza Otunbaeva has taken charge of the interim government. She informed journalists that Prime-Minister Daniyar Usenov “signed the resignation statement and personally submitted it to me. The opposition forces took over the power”, as quoted by RIAN. The resignation of  the Prime-Minister automatically means the resignation of the Cabinet Council.

The imprisoned opposition leaders Ismail Isakov, Erkin Bulekbaev, Saparbek Argynov and Uran Ryskulov were released although there were no legal sanctions or amnesty granted. The opposition leaders and various marginal men (who also refer to themselves as opposition members) gave live interviews on state television channel.

Meanwhile unknown people devastated the Kyrgyz national arts museum, named after Gapar Aitiev. The collection included precious paintings of Russian and Soviet artists like Vrubel, Levitan, Falk and other famous impressionists.

Their has been no word from Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev till now. He has not addressed the nation since the events started and there are only unconfirmed rumours that he might be in the south gathering support there. Interfax informed that on the night of April 7 Bakiev’s house was looted and burned with people grabbing personal belongings, bed-clothes, dishes, rugs and whatever they could lay their hands on. Not a single fire-engine arrived at the scene. The location of the president’s teammates and relatives has not been yet reported. According to unofficial sources, the President’s son Maxim Bakiev was on his way to the United States to attend  investment forum on April 8 in Washington DC. The event was pre-planned and turned out to be perfect timing for him.

The Russian Federation had hinted that it no longer supported the Bakiev regime. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called the unrest “a purely internal matter” and accused Kyrgyzstan’s president of “stepping on the same rake” as his predecessor, Askar Akayev. Both Bakiyev and Akayev incited public anger over alleged widespread corruption and nepotism in their administrations.

Askar Akayev, who now lives in Moscow, urged Bakiyev to step down. “The best outcome for the people of Kyrgyzstan would be the resignation of Bakiyev,” Akayev said on Ekho Moskvy radio.

“The single reason for these protests is Bakiyev and his politics”, said former independent RF Duma Deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov to Moscow Times. He said the Kyrgyz government was a classic dictatorship — “oppressive, corrupt and clannish — there are very good grounds to overthrow it. Russia has a huge influence over economically weak Kyrgyzstan. If it sends a mission with an energetic leader, it can act as a peacemaker,”. By not responding, Moscow risks losing the support of the Kyrgyz, “a people who are traditionally very friendly toward us,” he said.

The U.S. State Department is clueless as to how to manage the situation and said on Wednesday that the United States believes the Kyrgyz government is still in power despite claims that opposition had seized control. “We continue to think the government remains in power,” said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley, while adding – “We have no indication that the government has ceased to function …the situation is difficult, but not to the extent that there are claims that the government has fallen, we don’t have that information”.

Kyrgyzstan achieved independence with the collapse of Soviet Union in 1991. Though still an impoverished Central Asian nation, it’s seen as a strategic asset in both Moscow and Washington. Immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, U.S. set up a military base in Kyrgyzstan to support the war in Afghanistan. But in February 2009, at the same press conference that announced the gift of $2.1 billion in Russian aid to the Kyrgyz, President Bakiyev also announced the closure of the U.S. air base. He later backtracked, offering United States continued use of the base, but at three times the original rent.

Last month alone, more than 50,000 U.S. and coalition troops passed through Manas en route to Afghanistan according to U.S. military officials. The U.S. agreement allowing American use of the base in Kyrgyzstan, a mountainous is set to expire soon.

According to statistics, Kyrgyzstan’s population is now 5.4 million. The country’s gross domestic product in 2008 was $4 billion while main exports are cotton, tobacco, gold, mercury, uranium and natural gas.

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