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Revolution in Kyrgyzstan: Teleconference with RFE/RL Reporters and Analysts

(Washington, DC--March 25, 2005) The current civil unrest in Bishkek has led to a "quiet but tense situation" after the flight of Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev from the presidential palace on Thursday, March 24, 2005, according to RFE/RL reporters on the scene in Bishkek. Outside the capitol, people are celebrating the victory of the revolution, but expecting "big trouble" tonight in Bishkek--that was the collective judgement of Tyntchtykbek Tchoroev, director of RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service based in Prague; Jean-Christophe Peuch, RFE/RL's senior correspondent in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan; and Daniel Kimmage, RFE/RL's Washington-based regional analyst for Central Asia.

According to Peuch and Tchoroev, the latest reports are that three people were confirmed dead at a morgue in Bishkek, all killed during looting on Thursday night. There are some injuries among participants of a peaceful rally in the central square in Bishkek, who were attacked by groups with sticks before demonstrators stormed the Kyrgyz "White House"--the main building of the Kyrgyz government.

Ousted President Askar Akaev has fled the country, but refused to resign from his position as president. Kurmanbek Bakiyev, a central opposition leader was named the interim government's president. He assured citizens that the interim government will create transparent and free elections within 3 months, Peuch reported.

It is crucial for the new leaders to establish control and stability quickly, said Tchoroev. "Citizens are rallying outside the White House, urging the interim government to stabilize the country. Feliks Kulov, former vice president who was jailed for politically motivated reasons, is now in charge of all law enforcement operations." He added that the police, who are "morally weak" from yesterday's events, are being aided by the protestors and non-governmental organizations helping to patrol Bishkek.

The Kyrgyz opposition, a multi-ethnic and diverse opposition, is divided in many regions, "but the main thing is these opposition forces are all for democrative change," Tchoroev said, "People rose against this system for fair and free elections. They are ready for a new system, given only through fair elections."

Reactions from neighboring countries have included an accusation that outside forces may have aided in the overthrow of a weak internal regime in Kyrgyzstan, according to Kimmage. Uzbekistan has closed its border with Kyrgyzstan and Russia's President Vladimir Putin offered to give shelter to the exiled President Akaev, who is rumored to have fled to Kazakstan. According to Tchoroev, Putin does not expect the interim government to act against the interests of the Russian government. In January, 2005, Rosa Otunbayeva, leader of the Ata-Zhurt opposition bloc and Bakiyev met with high officials and Duma deputies in Moscow to discuss future relations with Russia.