12:57 GMT, Wednesday, 7 April 2010
Kyrgyzstan at the hub of superpowers’ plans
BBC World Affairs Correspondent
Reports of violence in the capital of Kyrgyzstan have prompted the US embassy there to express deep concern, and the Russian government to call for restraint.
These reactions help underline the strategic significance of Kyrgyzstan and the region it occupies.
Kyrgyzstan has found itself in the cockpit of what has been dubbed the new “great game” in the region – so-called because the modern big powers jostling for influence there appear reminiscent of the 19th Century contest between the British and Russian empires over access to India.
It has been a scramble for access to energy and other natural resources, trade routes, and more recently Western supply routes for operations in Afghanistan.
Gunfire has broken out in the Kyrgyzstan capital Bishkek
For Kyrgyzstan – one of the poorest of the neighbours in this region – the chief international focus has been access for military bases.
That itself followed the souring of relations between the US and Uzbek governments in 2005, after the Uzbek authorities cracked down violently on an internal threat posed by Islamic militants.
But the sensitivities have been growing – not least from Moscow, as the US-led operations in Afghanistan, and therefore also Washington’s military interest in the region, have become ever more prolonged.
The Kyrgyz authorities have played Washington off against Moscow.
President Kurmanbek Bakiyev had already been pressing Washington for significant increases in the rental payments for Manas.
But in early 2009, on the back of a Russian promise of a huge aid package, he announced that the base would close.
President Bakiyev asked for rent increases for the Manas base
It took a personal intervention by President Barack Obama to keep the Manas base open to the Americans. Even then it was on a compromise basis, under which Manas was to be described as a “transit centre”.
But the bumpy nature of relationships in the region has helped fuel a debate over how much commitment the West – and especially the US – should have in the region in the long term, particularly if operations in Afghanistan eventually tail off.
There are broader Western concerns about stability, governance, access to energy, and worries about the spread of Islamic militancy there.
But how these should be translated into long-term policy, against the background of Russian, Chinese and other local sensitivities, is very much open to question.
Kyrgyzstan Protests: Opposition Claims Control, At Least 40 People Killed
PETER LEONARD | 04/ 7/10 11:47 PM |
BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan — Kyrgyzstan’s opposition has taken over the government headquarters, the site of deadly clashes with police, and appears to be in control of the capital Thursday.
No police guard the building, and hundreds of jubilant but calm residents are standing outside and walking in.
Scars of the fighting, though, are everywhere, and the Health Ministry says the death toll rose overnight to 68, with 400 people still hospitalized.
The government of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev appears to have fled.
Opposition leader Rosa Otunbayeva has declared herself head of an interim government of this Central Asian nation housing a key U.S. air base.
She is to address parliament Thursday.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.
BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan (AP) – Opposition leaders declared they had seized power in Kyrgyzstan, taking control of security headquarters, a state TV channel and other government buildings after clashes between police and protesters killed dozens in this Central Asian nation that houses a key U.S. air base.
President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who came to power in a similar popular uprising five years ago, was said to have fled to the southern city of Osh, and it was difficult to gauge how much of the impoverished, mountainous country the opposition controlled Wednesday.
“The security service and the Interior Ministry … all of them are already under the management of new people,” Rosa Otunbayeva, a former foreign minister who the opposition leaders said would head the interim government, told the Russian-language Mir TV channel.
The opposition has called for the closure of the U.S. air base in Manas outside the capital of Bishkek that is a key transit point for supplies essential to the war in nearby Afghanistan.
A senior U.S. military official said Kyrgyzstan officials halted flights for 12 hours on Wednesday at Manas air base. The official, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said the base closed around 8 p.m. local time and was expected to reopen around 8 a.m. Thursday.
Other military officials said the suspension was not expected to impact military operations because fewer flights were scheduled during overnight hours.
During the day, protesters who were called into the streets by opposition parties stormed government buildings in Bishkek and battled with police amid volleys of tear gas. Groups of elite officers then fired with live ammunition.
The Health Ministry said 40 people died and more than 400 were wounded. Opposition activist Toktoim Umetaliyeva said at least 100 people were killed by police gunfire.
Crowds of demonstrators took control of the state TV building and looted it, then marched toward the Interior Ministry, according to Associated Press reporters on the scene, before changing direction and attacking a national security building nearby. They were repelled by security forces loyal to Bakiyev.
After nightfall, the opposition and its supporters appeared to gain the upper hand. An AP reporter saw opposition leader Keneshbek Duishebayev sitting in the office of the chief of the National Security Agency, Kyrgyzstan’s successor to the Soviet KGB. Duishebayev issued orders on the phone to people he said were security agents, and he also gave orders to a uniformed special forces commando.
Duishebayev, the former interior minister, told the AP that “we have created units to restore order” on the streets. Many of the opposition leaders were once allies of Bakiyev, in some cases former ministers or diplomats.
Bakiyev may have fled to Osh, the country’s second-largest city, where he has a home, Duishebayev said.
Since coming to power in 2005 amid street protests known as the Tulip Revolution, Bakiyev had ensured a measure of stability in the country of 5 million people, but the opposition says he has done so at the expense of democratic standards while enriching himself and his family. He 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 his predecessor, Askar Akayev.
In the past two years, authorities have clamped down on the media, and opposition activists say they have routinely been subjected to physical intimidation and targeted by politically motivated criminal investigations.
Like its neighbors Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan has remained impoverished since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union and has a history of stifling democratic institutions and human rights.
Kyrgyzstan is a predominantly Muslim country, but just as in Soviet times, it has remained secular. There has been little fear of the spread of Islamic fundamentalism as in other mostly Muslim regions of the former Soviet Union.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin denied any involvement in the uprising.
“Russian officials have absolutely nothing to do with this,” he said in Smolensk in response to a journalist’s question. “Personally, these events caught me completely by surprise.”
He also criticized Bakiyev’s government for repeating Akayev’s mistakes.
“When President Bakiyev came to power, he was very harshly critical of the fact that the relatives of the deposed President Akayev had taken positions throughout Kyrgyzstan’s economy. I have the impression that Mr. Bakiyev is stepping on these same rakes.”
A senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the uncertainty and delicacy of the situation, said the U.S. was in touch with government officials and the opposition.
“We want to see the situation resolved peacefully, consistent with the rule of law,” the official said. “Our conversation with the opposition at this stage is about finding out what is happening and encouraging a peaceful resolution.”
The anti-government forces were in disarray until recent widespread anger over the 200 percent increase in electric and heating bills unified them and galvanized support. 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.
Already struggling, they were outraged by the high cost of energy and were easily stirred up by opposition claims of official corruption.
In Washington, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the U.S. deplored the violence and urged all to respect the rule of law.
“We identify with the concerns that the people of Kyrgyzstan have about their future,” but those concerns should be dealt with peacefully, Crowley said, adding that the Manas base was operating normally.
Opposition leaders have said they want the base closed because it could put their country at risk if the United States becomes involved in a military conflict with Iran. Closing it would also please Russia, which has opposed the basing of U.S. troops on former Soviet turf.
The United States began using Manas in 2001, two months after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, and the base has become essential for transportation, refueling and supply for U.S.-led military operations in Afghanistan.
In 2009, Kyrgyzstan said U.S. forces would have to leave Manas, citing improving security conditions in Afghanistan and dissatisfaction over commercial terms for the base. That eviction announcement came shortly after Russia agreed to grant Kyrgyzstan more than $2 billion in aid and loans, and U.S. officials suggested the eviction decision hinged on Moscow’s aid.
The government later reversed its stance and agreed to a revised one-year deal giving U.S. troops rights to use the facility. Under the new lease, the rent increased to $60 million a year, from $17 million.
In addition to the annual rent, the U.S. also will allocate $37 million to build new aircraft parking slots and storage areas, plus $30 million for new navigation systems. Washington has also committed to giving Kyrgyzstan $51.5 million to combat drug trafficking and terrorism and promote economic development.
The unrest began Tuesday in the western city of Talas, where demonstrators stormed a government office and held a governor hostage.
The opposition called nationwide protests for the next day and police in Bishkek at first used rubber bullets, tear gas, water cannons and concussion grenades to try to control crowds of young men in black.
Police often appeared outnumbered and overwhelmed, sometimes retreating when faced with protesters – including many armed with rocks and others who appeared to be carrying automatic weapons as they marched.
The youths beat up police and seized their arms, trucks and armored personnel carriers.
Some protesters then tried to use an APC to ram the gates of the government headquarters, known as the White House. About a half-dozen young protesters shot automatic weapons into the air from the square in front of the building.
“We don’t want this rotten power!” protester Makhsat Talbadyev said, as he and others waved opposition party flags and chanted: “Bakiyev out!”
Some 200 elite police then began firing, pushing the crowd back.
Protesters set fire to the prosecutor general’s office and a giant plume of black smoke billowed into the sky.
At one point, police fled across the square from a large group of stone-throwing demonstrators. In another street, some police took refuge behind their shields as one of their colleagues lay unconscious at their feet, his face smeared with blood.
In another area, two policemen, their faces stained with blood, tried to escape as a protester aimed kicks in their direction.
Groups of protesters then set out across Bishkek, attacking more government buildings.
An AP reporter saw dozens of wounded demonstrators lining the corridors of one of Bishkek’s main hospitals, a block away from the main square, where doctors were overwhelmed with the flood of patients. Weeping nurses slumped over the dead, doctors shouted at each other and the floors were covered in blood.
Opposition activist Shamil Murat told the AP that Interior Minister Moldomusa Kongatiyev had been beaten to death by a mob in Talas. Later, the Fergana.ru Web site reported that Kongatiyev was badly beaten but had not died, saying its own reporter had witnessed the beating.
Unrest also broke out for a second day in Talas and spread to the southern city of Naryn.
Another 10,000 protesters stormed police headquarters in Talas. The protesters beat up Kongatiyev and forced him to telephone his subordinates in Bishkek and call off the crackdown on protesters, a correspondent for the local affiliate of U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty said.
Some 5,000 protesters seized Naryn’s regional administration building and installed a new governor, opposition activist Adilet Eshenov said. At least four people were wounded in clashes, including the regional police chief, he said.
In the eastern region of Issyk-Kul, protesters seized the regional administration building and declared they installed their governor, the Ata-Meken opposition party said on its Web site.
Associated Press writers Leila Saralayeva in Bishkek, Lynn Berry, Mansur Mirovalev and David Nowak in Moscow, and Matthew Lee and Anne Flaherty in Washington contributed to this report.
Upheaval in Kyrgyzstan Could Imperil Key U.S. Base
Published: April 7, 2010
MOSCOW — The president of Kyrgyzstan was forced to flee the capital, Bishkek, on Wednesday after bloody protests erupted across the country over his repressive rule, a backlash that could pose a threat to the American military supply line into nearby Afghanistan.
Opposition politicians, speaking on state television after it was seized by protesters, said they had taken control of the government after a day of violent clashes that left more than 40 people dead and more than 400 wounded. The instability called into question the fate of a critical American air base in the country.
Riot police officers fired rounds of live ammunition into angry crowds of demonstrators who gathered around government buildings to rally against what they termed the government’s brutality and corruption, as well as a recent decision to increase utility rates sharply. Witnesses said that the police seemed to panic, and that there was no sign of supervision. In several cases, demonstrators wrested their weapons away from them.
By early Thursday morning, opposition officials occupied many government buildings in Bishkek, and were demanding that the president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, sign a formal letter of resignation. Mr. Bakiyev has issued no public remarks since the protests began. An official at the Bishkek airport said Mr. Bakiyev was flying to Osh, a major city in the southern part of the country.
A coalition of opposition parties said a transition government would be headed by a former foreign minister, Roza Otunbayeva. “Power is now in the hands of the people’s government,” she said in a televised address on Wednesday evening.
Those same opposition leaders were angered last spring when Obama administration officials courted Mr. Bakiyev — who they admitted was an autocrat — in an ultimately successful attempt to retain rights to the military base, Manas, used to supply troops in Afghanistan. President Obama even sent him a letter of praise.
Russia had offered Mr. Bakiyev a sizable amount in new aid, which the United States interpreted as an effort to persuade him to close the base in order to limit the American military presence in Russia’s sphere of influence. After vowing to evict the Americans last year, Mr. Bakiyev reversed course once the administration agreed to pay much higher rent for the base.
An American official said late on Wednesday that flights into the base at Manas had been suspended. Lt. Cmdr. Bill Speaks, a spokesman for United States Central Command, said late on Wednesday that some troops and equipment scheduled to transit from Manas to Afghanistan were likely to be delayed because of the government upheaval and that the military was preparing to use other routes.
The American attitude toward Mr. Bakiyev ruffled opposition politicians in Kyrgyzstan, who said it was shameful for the United States to stand for democratic values in the developing world while maintaining an alliance with him.
The Kyrgyz president’s son, Maksim, had been scheduled to be in Washington on Thursday for talks with administration officials. The opposition views the younger Mr. Bakiyev as a vicious henchman for his father, and was infuriated that he was granted an audience. The State Department said late on Wednesday that it had canceled the meetings.
Opposition leaders have been divided in recent weeks over whether they would continue to allow the American military base to remain, but it seems clear that they harbor bitterness toward the United States. And neighboring Russia, which has long resented the base, has been currying favor with the opposition.
“The political behavior of the United States has created a situation where the new authorities may want to look more to Russia than to the United States, and it will strengthen their political will to rebuff the United States,” said Bakyt Beshimov, an opposition leader who fled Kyrgyzstan last August in fear for his life.
Mr. Beshimov was one of numerous opposition politicians and journalists who in recent years have been threatened, beaten and even killed. Kyrgyzstan, with five million people in the mountains of Central Asia, is one of the poorest countries of the former Soviet Union, and has long been troubled by political conflict and corruption. Mr. Bakiyev himself took power in 2005 after the Tulip Revolution, one of a series of so-called color revolutions that seemed to offer hope of more democracy in former Soviet republics. Since then, the Kyrgyz human rights situation has deteriorated. Mr. Bakiyev easily won another term as president last year, but independent monitors said the election was tainted by extensive fraud.
Tensions in Kyrgyzstan have been brewing for months, and seemed to be touched off in the provincial city of Talas on Tuesday by protests over soaring utility rates. Then on Wednesday, thousands of people began massing in Bishkek, where they were met by heavily armed riot police officers. Dmitri Kabak, director of a local human rights group in Bishkek, said in a telephone interview that he was monitoring the protest when riot police officers started shooting. “When people started marching toward the presidential office, snipers on the roof of the office started to open fire, with live bullets,” Mr. Kabak said. “I saw several people who were killed right there on the square.”
Dinara Saginbayeva, a Kyrgyz health official, said in a telephone interview that the death toll could rise, and that more than 350 people had been wounded in Bishkek alone. Opposition leaders said as many as 100 people may have died.
While the fighting was raging, security forces still loyal to the president arrested several prominent opposition leaders, including Omurbek Tekebayev, a former speaker of Parliament, and Almazbek Atambayev, a former prime minister and presidential candidate. They were later released after the government’s resistance appeared to wither.
While opposition leaders have promised to pursue a less authoritarian course, Central Asia has not proved fertile ground for democracy. Mr. Bakiyev himself took office declaring that he would respect political freedoms.
Whatever happens domestically, a new government will have decide how to balance the interests of the United States and Russia, which both have military bases in Kyrgyzstan and want to maintain a presence in the region. Paul Quinn-Judge, Central Asia project director for International Crisis Group, a research organization, said Russia had stoked anti-American sentiment in Kyrgyzstan in recent months, often over the issue of the base.
Nevertheless, Mr. Quinn-Judge said he suspected that opposition politicians would in the end decide to permit the base, though not before giving the United States a hard time. “My gut feeling is that it can be smoothed over,” he said. “But they have got to move fast to reach out to the opposition, and do it with a certain degree of humility.”
The New York Times
Thursday, April 08, 2010
06:46 Mecca time, 03:46 GMT
Kyrgyzstan opposition ‘in charge’
Opposition leaders in Kyrgyzstan say they have formed a new acting government in the country, after a day of deadly clashes between police and anti-government protesters.
Opposition party members made the announcement on a state television channel on Wednesday, shortly after protesters stormed and seized the channel in the capital, Bishkek.
RIA, a Russian news agency, cited the opposition as saying that the government had resigned and Kurmanbek Bakiyev, the president, had left the capital.
Al Jazeera’s Robin Forestier-Walker, reporting from Bishkek, said Bakiyev flew to the country’s south.
“We can confirm that the president has left the capital. He’s gone south to his heartland … where he’s from,” he said.
“We also understand that the prime minister has resigned and he was escorted safely from the White House, which is the Kyrgyz presidential administration building in the centre of the capital.
“So what appears to be the case is the Bakiyev government is no more in Bishkek. But the government has been effectively relocating to the south of the country.”
Appeal for calm
Forestier-Walker said the news came after opposition members commandeered one of the main government television stations earlier in the day.
“They came on air and talked about the situation, appealing for calm and appealing for people to protect small businesses and shops from looters,” he said.
“But most significantly, they described having formed a people’s assembly and that they’ve appointed someone to take charge of Bishkek, which more or less means that they’re saying, ‘We’re in charge. We’re in control. We’re now the government’.”
The announcement came after hours of violent clashes in Bishkek, in which at least 40 people were killed and more than 400 others wounded, Kyrgyzstan’s health ministry said.
But the opposition said at least 100 people had died.
Thousands of protesters angry over corruption and rising utility bills had earlier seized government buildings and clashed with riot police who fired tear gas, rubber bullets and flash grenades at the crowd.
Our correspondent said the protesters’ grievances are a mixture of political and economic frustrations.
“When it comes to real frustration, it’s the economic problems that really motivate people. The key turning point may have been the imposition of new utility bill tariffs,” he said.
“People’s energy bills doubled overnight in January and that caused serious consternation among a significant part of the population who are largely poor by international standards.
State of emergency
Authorities declared a nationwide state of emergency following the violence.
Wednesday’s unrest came a day after thousands of people in the northwest town of Talas stormed regional government offices.
The protesters broke into a government building where they briefly took hostage Bolotbek Beishenbekov, the local administrator.
Hundreds of demonstrators then gathered around a local police station and threw Molotov cocktails at portraits of Bakiyev.
Omurbek Tekebayev, the leader of opposition party Ata-Meken, said the protest in Talas was part of a wave of rallies planned by the opposition to put pressure on Bakiyev to meet their demands.
Tekebayev demanded that Bakiyev urgently tackle corruption and fire his relatives from senior government positions.
The unrest comes amid rising tensions between the opposition and Bakiyev’s government, which they accuse of cracking down on independent media and fostering corruption.
Bakiyev came to power five years ago after street protests led to the country’s so-called Tulip Revolution which ousted his predecessor.
|Clashes between police and protesters spread to several cities in the north [Reuters]|
Bruce Pannier, a journalist and Kyrgyzstan expert with Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty in Prague, said Bakiyev promised to reform the country when he came into office five years ago.
“[But] his fight against corruption hasn’t really gone very far in the government,” he told Al Jazeera.
“As far as him combating nepotism, the people in Kyrgyzstan know that Bakiyev appointed several of his brothers to state positions and that his son is actually running the Kyrgyz economy.
“As far as an independent media, Kyrgyzstan always had a fairly vibrant independent media … but since the start of 2009, the situation has taken a definite turn for the worst.”
Earlier this month, a Kyrgyz court shut an opposition newspaper and banned two newspapers close to the opposition, fining them $111,000 for allegedly insulting Bakiyev.
|Source:||Al Jazeera and agencies|
04:18 GMT, Thursday, 8 April 2010 05:18 UK
Kyrgyzstan opposition sets up ‘people’s government’
The opposition in Kyrgyzstan says it is setting up a “people’s government” after deadly clashes left some 65 dead.
An opposition leader and former foreign minister, Roza Otunbayeva, told the BBC that new defence and interior ministers had been appointed.
The whereabouts of President Bakiyev are not clear but reports say that he has flown out of the capital, Bishkek.
Protests at rising prices, corruption and the arrest of opposition leaders had erupted in three cities.
The country’s health ministry said nearly 400 of 495 people injured in the violence were taken to hospital, AFP news agency reported.
The scene in Bishkek on Thursday morning was calm, with the opposition apparently in control of the government headquarters that were the scene of deadly clashes on Wednesday.
Ms Otunbayeva said the interim government would remain in power for six months and draw up a new constitution. She is expected to address parliament later.
Kyrgyzstan is a strategically important Central Asian state and houses a key US military base that supplies forces in Afghanistan. Russia also has a base there.
Ms Otunbayeva said these military bases could continue as before.
The United States said it deplored the violence and urged “respect for the rule of law”. It also said it believed the government was still in control.
AT THE SCENE
Rayhan Demytrie, BBC News, Bishkek
People are waking up to a sense of uncertainty.
I’ve just been to the White House, the main administrative building. There are hundreds of people gathering there and they want to know what to do next. There are still no leaders to be seen.
We’ve seen lots of burned cars, and a portrait of President Bakiyev that has been daubed with red paint – the result of widespread looting that has been going on around the capital.
We stopped at what was one of the biggest shopping malls in Bishkek and there was total chaos – not a single item left on the shelves, and glass everywhere.
The workers were in shock trying to work out the cost of the damage done.
Russian PM Vladimir Putin denied that Moscow had played any role in the unrest, saying it was a “domestic affair” and that there should be “restraint”.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said the protests showed the “outrage at the existing regime”.
A spokesman for Ban Ki-moon said the UN secretary general was “shocked by the reported deaths and injuries that have occurred today in Kyrgyzstan. He urgently appeals for dialogue and calm to avoid further bloodshed”.
Gunfire is continuing into the night in Bishkek with shops set alight.
The BBC’s Rayhan Demytrie in Bishkek says there is widespread looting, with hundreds of protesters moving from one store to another.
The Kyrgyz health ministry said 40 people had died in the clashes and more than 400 were injured.
But the opposition says that is far too low. In a broadcast on a TV channel it took over, spokesman Omurbek Tekebayev said at least 100 demonstrators had been killed.
The opposition used its channel to say that it was setting up a government that would be headed by former foreign minister, Rosa Otunbayeva.
Ms Otunbayeva said in a broadcast: “Power is now in the hands of the people’s government. Responsible people have been appointed and are already working to normalise the situation.”
The Associated Press news agency reported that an opposition leader had taken over the National Security Agency, the successor to the Soviet KGB.
But Galina Skripkina, of the opposition Social-Democratic Party, told Reuters news agency that the president had not yet resigned.
“He must… formally submit his resignation to parliament so we can appoint a caretaker government,” she said.
Reuters also quoted the Kyrgyz border control as saying the frontier with Kazakhstan had been closed.
Agence France-Presse says the US has suspended military flights at its base in Kyrgyzstan.
The whereabouts of the president remain unknown. Opposition figures said he had flown out of Bishkek and had landed in the southern city of Osh.
One of the poorest of the former Soviet states
Hosts both US and Russian military air bases
Population mostly Kyrgyz but 15% are Uzbek and a significant number of Russians live in the north and around the capital
Kurmanbek Bakiyev has been president since the Tulip Revolution of 2005, which overthrew the government of Askar Akayev
Mr Bakiyev vowed to restore stability but has been accused of failing to tackle corruption
Opponents also complain he has installed relatives in key government posts
Domestic media have come under increasing pressure from the government in recent months
Mr Bakiyev came to power amid a wave of street protests in 2005 known as the Tulip Revolution, but many of his allies have deserted him claiming intimidation and corruption.
The unrest had broken out in the provincial town of Talas on Tuesday and spread to Bishkek and another town, Naryn, on Wednesday. All three were put under curfew.
Interior Minister Moldomusa Kongatiyev, who was believed to have gone to Talas to calm the situation, was reportedly severely beaten.
Some reports said he had been killed by the mob, others that he was taken hostage, but there is no confirmation of his fate.
The violence may also have been exacerbated by the arrest of several opposition leaders, including Temir Sariyev, who was detained after arriving on a flight from Moscow on Wednesday. He was freed by protesters on Wednesday.
Police in Bishkek initially used tear gas and stun grenades to try to disperse protesters.
But the demonstrators overcame the police and marched to the presidential offices in the city centre.
Police cars were overturned and set alight and officers attacked by the crowd.
Gunfire could be heard crackling through the centre of Bishkek. The prosecutor’s office was also set alight.
Whether or not Russia was involved, the fact is that Kyrgyzstan is part of the Russian territory that has been under the control of Russia for centuries and was lost after the end of the Soviet Union. That’s why Russia tried to get the U.S. military base out of there. Apparently, the new government doesn’t want the U.S. base there neither. The first article is good because it remembers that Central Asia was called the “great game” in the dispute between Britain and Russia in the nineteenth century. It is now a new “great game” between the Russian efforts to reconquer its lost historical territory and the U.S. effort to control the areas around Russia and China. The importance of the region is not just because of its energy reserves – although it is a really important factor -, it has also to do with strategic territory control in the dispute of the great powers. And, for the same reason, the importance of the U.S. base isn’t just because of the war in Afghanistan. That’s why the outcomes of this revolution in the next days will be important.