Opposition groups said on Tuesday that they have seized power in Kyrgyzstan, a strategically important Central Asian country, after taking control of government buildings in the capital during protests over the parliamentary elections that saw parties close to the pro-Russian president. Sooronbay Jeenbekov gets big victories amid accusations of massive vote-buying campaigns.
Jeenbekov said the country, which is home to a Russian airbase and a large Canadian- controlled gold mine, is facing a coup attempt. However, he ordered the security forces not to open fire on the protesters.
One person was killed and 590 injured in the early morning riots, the government said. The opposition said it had released Almazbek Atambayev, a former president jailed on corruption charges, and was already discussing the formation of an interim government.
Along with Atambayev, a staunch rival of Jeenbekov, two former prime ministers and two former lawmakers were released from jail, media reported.
It was unclear what position, if any, Atambayev will receive. For his part, Jeenbekov, the acting president, showed no signs of leaving power, although the central electoral commission was reported to have annulled the results of the October 4 elections.
The crisis, reminiscent of the revolutions that saw presidents overthrown in 2005 and 2010, will be closely watched by Russia, which maintains a military base in the landlocked republic of 6.5 million, and neighbouring China.
The Moscow embassy in Bishkek on Tuesday called for ” a legal solution” to the crisis. “Guaranteeing the safety of citizens, internal stability must be a priority,” he added.
Opposition politicians, including a former prime minister and several party leaders, said they had formed a “coordinating council” to restore stability and “return to the rule of law.”
The council issued a statement criticizing Jeenbekov for failing to deliver on a promise to provide a level playing field for the parties competing in the vote.
Interior Minister Kashkar Junushaliyev did not show up for work on Tuesday, a ministry spokesman said, saying that Kursan Asanov, an opposition politician and former senior security official, had taken over as acting interior minister.
For its part, Jeenbekov’s office has insisted that the situation in the country is under its control, while the president accused “various political forces” of trying to seize power.
Broken windows, strewn debris
On Tuesday morning, supporters of the nationalist politician Sadyr Khaparov, who was also released by protesters, called for him to be appointed prime minister or president at a meeting in front of the building that houses Jeenbekov’s office and parliament.
In the capital, you could see broken windows and debris scattered around the rooms of the building. Their exits were guarded by protesters, with no official security presence insight. Volunteers were handing out tea and helping municipal services clean up.