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TENSIONS PERSIST IN SOUTH KYRGYZSTAN

RIA Novosti

BISHKEK, March 23 (RIA Novosti, Yulia Orlova) - Riots still continue in Jalal-Abad, south Kyrgyzstan. Some local banks and exchange offices have been looted as a result. This was disclosed to RIA Novosti today by republican law-enforcement officers.

An opposition rally still continues in Jalal-Abad. According to some reports, several hundred people are now staying on the central city square.

The protesters released all inmates from a local detention center, with city residents fearing a possible crime spree. The opposition also seized regional and city police departments, thereby stopping all police operations.

The authorities have withdrawn all law-enforcement divisions from the region in order to avoid any possible provocations on the part of opposition forces that may lead to deaths, the Kyrgyz President's spokesman Abdil Segizbayev noted the other day.

Food prices skyrocketed there over the last two days, what with bread prices soaring two-fold. The municipal infrastructure has virtually stopped functioning.

The Osh situation is calmer, with no protesters gathering there since the morning of March 23. Right now, all power belongs to "popular governor" Anvar Artykov, who was elected by protesters March 18. Artykov has established the so-called popular-rule council, saying that the council will, first of all, aim to normalize the regional situation and restore normal life.

The opposition's popular-unity coordinating council believes that the short-term south Kyrgyz situation will largely depend on President Akayev's actions.

The opposition hopes that the President of Kyrgyzstan will eventually decide to negotiate with constructive forces of society, and that violence will stop escalating.

The opposition plans to stage its rally in downtown Bishkek this afternoon, coordinating-council people noted. Opposition forces intend to launch their protests March 23, subsequently continuing them March 24 and March 25, opposition leader Dzhapar Dzheksheev stressed.



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