Russia throws weight behind provisional Kyrgyz govt. (WRAPUP 3)
MOSCOW, April 8 (RIA Novosti) - Russia on Thursday threw its weight behind the provisional Kyrgyz government, which took power in the capital and several regions of the ex-Soviet Central Asian state after two days of violent protests in which 74 people died and more than 500 were injured.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin spoke on the phone with Kyrgyz opposition-nominated premier Roza Otunbayeva, who asked Moscow for economic assistance, Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
"It is important to note that the conversation was held with Otunbayeva in her capacity as the head of a national confidence government," Peskov said. He said Putin told Otunbayeva that Russia was ready to offer humanitarian aid to Kyrgyzstan.
In 2009, Russia allocated a $2 billion soft loan to Kyrgyzstan and $150 million in financial assistance. The leaders of both countries denied suggestions that the loan was linked to Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev's plans to close a U.S. military base located a short distance from the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek.
Otunbayeva declared earlier on Thursday that her provisional government was dismissing parliament and taking over from Bakiyev and his government.
She told a press conference the provisional government will work for six months to stabilize the situation, prepare changes in the constitution and hold presidential elections. The opposition accuses Bakiyev of mishandling the impoverished country and encouraging nepotism.
The protests began in the northwestern Kyrgyz town of Talas on Tuesday after a few opposition leaders were arrested, and spread to other regions of the country, including Bishkek, on Wednesday. On Thursday, they are still ongoing.
Later the arrestees were released but it did not stop the protests. National TV, parliament and government buildings were seized by protestors. They also burnt Bakiyev's residence in Bishkek. Kyrgyz media reported on Thurdday that crowds are smashing up ex-premier Daniyar Usenov's house in Bishkek.
Opposition claims to be in control
Kyrgyzstan's government formed by the opposition said Thursday the country's armed forces, border guards and police have moved over to the opposition side.
Otunbayeva said the opposition, whose powerbase is in the north of the country, controls four out of Kyrgyzstan's seven regions. She added that President Bakiyev has not given up his post and is trying to organize resistance in the country's south where he traditionally has more support.
"The situation with Bakiyev remains unclear. He has not resigned and is in Jalal-Abad now. He is trying to consolidate the electorate to continue resistance," Otunbayeva said.
Another former Kyrgyz premier Felix Kulov, who leads the Ar-Namys opposition party, said on Thursday that Bakiyev has to resign and go on trial and called for amendments in the constitution and restricted presidential power in the republic.
"There can be no doubt that the order to shoot to kill was given by President Bakiyev, who controlled all law enforcement organizations in the country. Dozens of our compatriots were killed and hundreds wounded. Kurmanbek Bakiyev [...] has no moral or legal right to remain on his post," a statement from Kulov's party said.
"The Ar-Namys party believes that [...] it is necessary to start the process of constitutional reform to restrict the exclusive power of the head of state [...] We cannot repeat the mistakes of the past when one person usurped power," the statement said.
Otunbayeva said the provisional government has abolished the country's development, investment and innovation agency that was until recently headed by Bakiyev's younger son Maxim. The agency controlled almost all financial flows coming to the republic from abroad.
Otunbayeva's deputy Temir Sariyev said Kyrgyzstan's national bank will temporarily manage a number of banks previously run by Bakiyev's entourage. "This was done to stop funds being pumped out of the republic," he said.
Several thousand supporters of Bakiyev gathered for a rally in the southern city of Jalal-Abad in expectation of a speech from the president, a source in the city's authorities told RIA Novosti. Bakiyev has made no statements so far, but Kyrgyz ambassador to Russia Raimkul Attakurov said he will soon address the nation.
"[President Bakiyev] has not made any statement on his resignation. A presidential address to the nation is being drafted and will be made public as soon as possible," the ambassador said.
Attakurov said Bakiyev is in the south of Kyrgyzstan. The opposition says he is in Jalal-Abad and earlier reports said he was in Osh. Both are towns in the south of the country.
A RIA Novosti correspondent at the scene reported on Thursday that crowds have set fire to and looted parts of the government headquarters in capital Bishkek.
Around 1,000 people gathered in the square in front of the building and looters carried equipment and carpets out of the building. Smoke could be seen rising from the sixth and seven floors, where the presidential offices are.
A blood-splattered portrait of Bakiyev was hanging from a fence in front of the government building.
Fires raged across the city and shops have been looted. Similar scenes have been reported throughout the country.
The opposition called for calm and urged people to stop looting.
Despite the chaos, Bishkek mayor Nariman Tuleyev has said that vital services would be maintained. Street sweepers, out as usual on Thursday morning, could be seen clearing up the debris from three days of violent protests.
Major political unrest started in Kyrgyzstan last month when the opposition forces accused the government of tightening its grip on power while failing to bring stability and economic growth.
Opposition supporters on Wednesday seized a number of state organizations in Bishkek. The government and opposition leaders held talks, but the Kabar news agency reported that they failed.
Both Russia and the United States both have military bases in Kyrgyzstan and have taken a keen interest in the events there.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Wednesday that the clashes in Kyrgyzstan were an extreme form of public protest and called the Central Asian country Russia's strategic partner.
Russian premier Putin called on the Kyrgyz government and opposition to restrain from violence. Putin also denied claims by a number of Kyrgyz opposition leaders that he had expressed support for the protestors. He said Russia has played no role in the events in Kyrgyzstan.
The United States expressed concern over the mass disorders in the country and said it was closely watching the situation. It also called on all sides to refrain from violence and display restraint.
Kyrgyzstan has been unstable since Bakiyev took office after the so-called tulip revolution in 2005, but major political unrest began in Kyrgyzstan last month when opposition forces accused the government of tightening its grip on power while failing to bring stability and economic growth.
Kyrgyzstan's first post-Soviet president Askar Akayev, who was toppled in 2005 by Bakiyev, said on Thursday that the country's south, where Bakiyev traditionally has most support, is not likely to back Bakiyev, whose rule has been marred by economic problems, high-profile murders, prison riots and disputes over the control of lucrative businesses.
"I don't think there will be a civil war. The south will not back Bakiyev, I don't think there is any confrontation between the north and the south as the protest mood is also strong in the south," Akayev said in an interview with RIA Novosti.
Otunbayeva was one of the key figures of the 2005 tulip revolution, which led to the overthrow of then President Akayev.
On Wednesday, Putin criticized Bakiyev's policies, saying he had repeated mistakes made by his predecessor Akayev.
Akayev said Thursday protests in Kyrgyzstan will not lead to a civil war and the situation in the country may normalize within a few days.
A Russian Air Force spokesman, Vladimir Drik, said on Thursday that the Russian airbase in Kant, around 20 kilometers (12 miles) outside the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek, is functioning normally.
"The airbase is operating under a routine training schedule. No incidents have been registered involving Russian air garrison personnel. No one has been injured," Drik said.
Russian General Staff chief Nikolai Makarov said Russia has sent some 150 paratroopers to its Kant airbase to ensure the safety of the families of Russian military staff.
Earlier a source in Russia's Defense Ministry said the Russian airbase was on high alert, while the U.S. Department of State said the airbase in Kyrgyzstan's Manas, used by the United States for its operations in Afghanistan, is continuing to function normally.
Kyrgyz news agency Kabar reported on Thursday that the Kyrgyz provisional government will announce on Saturday, April 10, a day of national mourning for those killed during protests.
Meanwhile, reports said a militia was being formed in Bishkek.
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