Thousands protest in Kyrgyz capital

Thousands of people, protesting on the streets of Kyrgyzstan's capital, Bishkek, have called for the resignation of the country's president, who they accused of 'ditching democratic reforms'.

    Protesters have called for the resignation of the president

    The protesters, who gathered in Bishkek's central square on Friday, for the second day, were complaining that the president, who came to power in a coup in March 2005, had failed to improve the lives of millions.

    Meanwhile, addressing a news conference in Brussels on Friday, Sergei Lavorv, the Russian foreign minister, described the  situation in Kyrgyzstan as 'alarming'.

    Kyrgyzstan is strategically important to both Russia and the US as both countries have air bases there. 

    "Once these events linked to the confrontation between the opposition and the Kyrgyz authorities began, we in Moscow did all we could in a bid to prevent any aggravation of the situation. We were sending relevant signals," Lavrov said.

    "Unfortunately, today's reports are alarming," he told a news conference.

    "We just hope that a sensible decision is taken and that the opposition does not break the law and that all this happens within the Kyrgyz legislation." 
    The Kyrgyz opposition insists that it will use only peaceful means to demonstrate against the government and protests have so far not turned violent.

    Serious opposition

    "We just hope that a sensible decision is taken and that the opposition does not break the law and that all this happens within the Kyrgyz legislation" 

    Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister

    Michael Hall, Central Asia director for the think tank, International Crisis Group, told Reuters: "The opposition are quite serious. They have a certain feeling it's now or never. 

    "But Bakiyev has also gotten somewhat stronger over the last year or so. His government is not quite as unstable as it was even at the beginning of this year."


    Hall said that the main danger was that one side would make a wrong move - either the authorities cracking down or any action by the protesters that could look like a coup attempt.

    No threat

    Bakiyev claims that his government has an audio tape of opposition leaders plotting to seize control of key state buildings. The opposition denied that it was planning a coup.
    The recording was apparently made secretly at a meeting on Thursday night in the office of Omurbek Tekebayev, one of the main opposition leaders.
    "Let's not get overtaken by emotion. There is no threat here. There are no forces to carry out a coup. But there are intentions. There is proof," Bakiyev told parliament.

    Bakiyev was elected president after his predecessor, Askar Akayev, fled the country following violent protests against a flawed parliamentary election which culminated in protesters ransacking the presidential offices and looting shops.
    He has promised to present constitutional changes on Monday giving parliament more power. His opponents say they do not trust his assurances.

    Meanwhile, outsiders are watching to see if the civil unrest could spread to neighbouring central Asian countries.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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