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Central & South Asia
Deposed Kyrgyz leader still defiant
Ousted president says he has not "abdicated responsibility" to run the country.
Last Modified: 09 Apr 2010 10:55 GMT

Kurmanbek Bakiyev, the deposed 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, after a major uprising left at least 75 people dead and up to 10,000 injured.

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

Caretaker government

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

"Nine months ago, 80 per cent of the people voted for me and things can't change so quickly," he said.

in depth

 

  Profile: Roza Otunbayeva
  Videos:
  Opposition usurps power in Bishkek
  Kyrgyzstan: Central Asia keystone
  Interview: President Kurmanbek Bakiyev

Roza Otunbayeva, a former foreign minister and head of the new government, 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.

Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister, called Otunbayeva, his spokesman said on Thursday, without giving details of what was discussed.

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

Moscow aid sought

Almazbek Atambyaev, the deputy head of Kyrgyzstan's provisional government, flew to Moscow on Friday to request economic aid from Russia, the interim authorities said in a statement.

Bakiyev has, meanwhile, signalled his willingness to negotiate with the opposition and open talks with Russia, but it is not clear whether the caretaker government will consider his proposal.

Violent clashes in the Central Asian nation began on Wednesday with security forces battling people who set vehicles on fire and attacked government installations. 

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

The opposition capitalised on recent widespread anger over a 200 per cent increase in electric and heating bills.

Kyrgyzstan has also been plagued by chronic instability.

On Friday, funerals were held throughout Bishkek as the city began observing two days of mourning.

Al Jazeera's Robin Forestier-Walker in Bishkek said the capital was "calm" and that the "interior ministry is now under control of the so-called interim government; they are co-operating; they say the situation is stable".

Vigilante groups

Vigilante groups hastily organised by the interim government spent the previous night fighting looters in a bid to restore stability.

Sporadic gunfire was heard throughout the night but a government spokesman said nobody was killed.

"It is quiet again in the capital. No one died overnight," Abdykalyk Ismailov, the interior ministry spokesman, said.

"There are still some groups of looters but the city is largely under control."

Manas air base

On Thursday, the White House released a statement condemning the use of "deadly force" by security forces against opposition protesters.

"The president [Barack Obama] has been closely following the events in Kyrgyzstan, and continues to monitor the situation with his national security team," Robert Gibbs, the White House spokesman, said in a written statement.

"We urge that calm be restored to Bishkek and other affected areas in a manner consistent with democratic principles and with respect for human rights."

Al Jazeera's Patty Culhane, reporting from Washington, says that the US has a vital stake in Kyrgyzstan as the Central Asian nation currently provides a vital supply route to Afghanistan.

The US military has used the Manas air base to deploy additional troops and matériel to assist Nato and Isaf operations in Afghanistan.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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