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Kyrgyz PM Alleges Coup Plot --> Prime Minister Kulov (center) at an October 12 event at which he faced strident criticism (RFE/RL) BISHKEK, November 3, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Kyrgyz Prime Minister Feliks Kulov escalated political tensions accompanying antigovernment protests today by accusing the opposition of plotting to overthrow the government.

Kulov told lawmakers that authorities have evidence that opponents planned to occupy government buildings in Bishkek and the regions with a view to seizing power.

Upward of 15,000 demonstrators gathered on a main square outside the government headquarters in Bishkek on November 2 in an opposition-led protest to demand constitutional reforms or the resignation of President Kurmanbek Bakiev and his team, including Kulov.

RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports that some 2,000 protesters marched peacefully today to the Bishkek mayor's office, where they met briefly with Mayor Arstanbek Nogoev to urge him to take up their cause or step down. They then proceeded to the state-television headquarters, where they met with broadcast director Kyias Moldokasymov.

The marchers said they wanted to press the state broadcaster to provide "unbiased" coverage of the current political standoff.

Opposition leaders said Moldokasymov agreed to provide two half-hour blocks of live airtime per evening until the current crisis passes. But the deal was not immediately implemented and it remains unclear whether authorities will approve it.

Audio 'Evidence'

Kulov made his announcement at a meeting with parliamentarians today, during which he played audiotape purporting to contain telephone conversations among opposition leaders. The recordings were said to include the voices of a number of senior opposition leaders who are leading the current protest, including Omurbek Tekebaev, Roza Otunbaeva, Bolot Sherniyazov, Temir Sariev, and Edil Baisalov.

In a reference to a botched attempt to frame former parliament speaker and opposition leader Omurbek Tekebaev in September, one of the voices is heard to say that government officials have "already attempted to put pressure" on their political foes. The speaker goes on to suggest that "this time, they'll simply open fire" on their opponents.

Kulov told legislators that he has no doubt the tapes are genuine.

"Those tapes tell us that [those people] are discussing the possibility of seizing a number of important facilities -- including the Kyrgyz state-television building, the [Bishkek] mayor's office, the National Security Service, the Prosecutor-General's Office, [and] the Interior Ministry," Kulov charged. "They're also discussing the possibility of taking control of a number of cities and towns -- that is, their central administration offices -- and rouse public opinion by making addresses to the people."

Kulov also said the security services had seized a computer disk describing plans to occupy government buildings in Bishkek and elsewhere.

President Bakiev said in turn that any attempt to destabilize the country would be quashed "in accordance with the law."

Opposition leaders denied the accusations brought against them, saying the tapes are fake.

Lawmaker Melis Eshimkanov of the For Reforms opposition movement argued that in any case, the recordings were made illegally.

"Under the constitution and the criminal code, it is forbidden not only to tape the conversations of parliamentarians, but also those of any citizen," Eshimkanov said. "This is a punishable by law."

Protest Spreads

Roughly 200 small tents were erected on Alatoo Square, which abuts the government headquarters, late on November 2. RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports some 1,000 protesters kept an overnight vigil and a similar number remain on the square tonight (Friday, November 3).

The opposition has vowed to maintain its Bishkek demonstration until its demands are met.

A regional television station, NTS, reported today that some 1,000 protesters were picketing the central administration building in the northwestern city of Talas. Smaller rallies were reported elsewhere, including in the eastern city of Karakol.

The Dispute

At the heart of the current dispute is a raft of reforms that President Bakiev pledged in July 2005 to institute once he was elected.

They include planned constitutional amendments that would curtail the president's prerogatives and give more power and say over government to the parliament. Bakiev also pledged to transform the state television station into a public broadcaster.

There are reportedly more than a dozen drafts of amendments to the Kyrgyz Constitution in existence, ranging from seemingly minor adjustments to sweeping changes that would dramatically affect the balance of power among branches of government.

President Bakiev vowed on November 2, just hours before the Bishkek protest was launched, to deliver his own draft for parliamentary consideration on November 6.

(RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, with Tazar and

The Tulip Revolution

ONE YEAR AGO: Click on the image to view RFE/RL's archive of coverage of Kyrgyzstan's Tulip Revolution from the beginning, including biographical sketches of the key players and photo galleries of the demonstrations.

See RFE/RL's special review of the March 2005 Kyrgyz events:

Questions Remain About March 24 'Revolution' (Part I)

Did Revolution Sow The Seeds Of Democracy? (Part II)

Was 'Revolution' A Worthy Successor To Rose And Orange? (Part III)

See also:

Reporter's Notebook -- Witness To The Uprising

THE COMPLETE KYRGYZSTAN: To view an archive of all of RFE/RL's coverage of Kyrgyzstan, click here.