Kyrgyz president claims control

Kurmanbek Bakiyev talks exclusively to Al Jazeera after opposition 'seizes leadership'.

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    Kurmanbek Bakiyev, Kyrgyzstan's president, has told Al Jazeera he remains in power and will not step down, despite fleeing the capital after opposition leaders claimed they had seized control of government following two days of unrest.

    "I'm still the president," Bakiyev told Al Jazeera in an exclusive interview from Osh, in the south of the country, on Thursday.

    "There have been tragic events in our country. This has been a tragic day in Bishkek," he said.

    His comments came as opposition leaders - now in control of Bishkek - called on Bakiyev to resign.

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    Roza Otunbayeva, a former foreign minister, told the Russian-language Mir TV channel on Thursday that Bakiyev had effectively been removed from power.

    "The security service and the interior ministry, all of them are already under the management of new people," she said.

    "The interim government will remain in place for half a year, during which we will draft the constitution and create conditions for free and fair elections," Otunbayeva said.

    Other opposition leaders said Otunbayeva would head the interim government for the next six months.

    Deadly clashes

    Clashes between anti-government protesters and riot police on Wednesday left 75 people dead and around 1,000 wounded.

    Confrontations in the capital on Thursday indicated that the situation remained volatile.

    "They are trying to take over the government but they can't do this," Bakiyev told Al Jazeera.

    "Nine months ago, 80 per cent of the people voted for me and things can't change so quickly. It's the temporary government that should take responsibility for everthing that has happened. They have made this happen," he said.

    The unrest followed rising tensions between the opposition and Bakiyev's government, which they accuse of cracking down on independent media and fostering corruption.

    Recent widespread anger over the 200 per cent increase in electric and heating bills unified opposition factions and galvanised support for them.

    Fiscal promises

    Many of Wednesday's protesters were men from poor villages, including some who had come to the capital to live and work on construction sites.

    Bakiyev had promised to reform the country when he came into office five years ago, after street protests led to the country's so-called Tulip Revolution which ousted Askar Akayev, his predecessor.

    Otunbayeva declared she was the interim leader with Russia supporting her move [AFP]

    Bakiyev gave his relatives, including his son, top government and economic posts and faced the same accusations of corruption and cronyism that led to the ouster of Akayev.

    Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister, said at a news conference in Smolensk on Thursday: "Russia has not had a hand in the uprising," and called for calm amidst the unrest.

    Putin talked with Otunbayeva by phone in her capacity as the head of the new government, Putin's spokesman said.

    "It is important that the conversation was held with her in her role as the head of the government of national confidence," Dmitry Peskov, Putin's spokesman, said.

    "Otunbayeva said she fully controls the situation in the country."

    Bakiyev told Al Jazeera he was willing to enter into talks with Otunbayeva.

    "I am ready to talk with [Otunbayeva]. I am ready to speak with [Russia]."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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