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KYRGYZSTAN: IS THERE A SOLUTION TO THE "VELVET" CRISIS?

RIA Novosti

MOSCOW (RIA Novosti political commentator Pyotr Goncharov). Even the most ardent optimists would not qualify the current crisis in Kyrgyzstan as "velvet." The question now is: can bloodshed be avoided?

The opposition claims "first blood" has been shed already and has reported police and civilian casualties. Much now depends on whether the authorities and the opposition will be able to overcome their mutual hostility and sit down at the negotiating table.

Events in the republic in the last two years have forced the talks. President Askar Akayev is willing to hold talks with the opposition, but his agreement alone is not enough.

The standoff between the authorities and the opposition in Osh and Jalal-Abad, the two large cities in southern Kyrgyzstan, which erupted during the parliamentary elections, has predictably evolved into violent clashes, and the end is not in sight. The authorities and the opposition saw the situation from different angles. The latter insists both civilians and police officers were killed and injured when law enforcers and special police units stormed the government buildings in Osh and Jalal-Abad in the early hours of Sunday. About ten people were allegedly killed and dozens were wounded and taken to hospitals.

The authorities denied the reports, but they do consider the situation to be a crisis. The Interior Ministry said, for example, that the families of many police officers had to flee Jalal-Abad and Osh in fear of their lives.

The opposition is trying to portray rallies in the southern districts as a national protest against the incumbent authorities. The authorities, for their part, accuse the opposition of playing on the grave of social and political problems facing the southern regions. They insist the opposition has orchestrated the conflict, but that it remains a local conflict.

The authorities are right in part. Protest sentiments do exist in Kyrgyzstan, but they are too weak to imitate the Georgian and Ukrainian revolutions. And it is premature to say that Akayev and his government are doomed.

However, the confrontation between the authorities and the opposition originated long ago. The rallies in Aksy, an administrative center in the Jalal-Abad region, were the first alarming sign. Police used force against the protesters, and the bloodshed shocked the entire republic.

Akayev did not agree in an interview with a Russian newspaper that Kyrgyzstan was facing a total political, civil, and social crisis and was on the brink of civil war, but he acknowledged the need to start "a new stage of democratic development." The president said he had initiated a series of reforms designed to help the republic's democratic development. But it seems there were too few ideas to help ensure stability in the country. While moving toward democracy, the country needed an alternative approach to the president's ideas, the opposition's approach.

Will the Kyrgyz authorities manage to open a dialogue with the opposition now that violence has broken out?

This dialogue, if it begins, will not be easy for Akayev and the authorities in general, as it is not clear whether the opposition will drop its demands for Akayev's resignation and early presidential elections. And how the authorities will respond to those demands is even more uncertain.



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