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Russia: Moscow Grapples With Meaning Of Kyrgyz Uprising

Russian President Vladimir Putin believes Moscow can work with the new Kyrgyz leadership. Leading Russian political figures on 24 and 25 March rushed to comment on the unfolding events in Kyrgyzstan, with government officials stating unequivocally that Moscow does not plan to intervene in the former Soviet republic. Others, however, urged the Kremlin to assert itself in the crisis, with many going so far as to ascribe the uprising to a Western plot to reduce further Russia's influence in the region.

Speaking to journalists in Yerevan, President Vladimir Putin said on 25 March that he was not surprised by the Kyrgyz events, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported. "They are the results of the weakness of the previous government and the accumulation of social and economic problems."

Putin said Russia regrets that the Kyrgyz opposition used "illegal" means to achieve its aims. "Unfortunately, once again in the former Soviet Union, political problems were solved in an illegitimate way and were accompanied by chaos and casualties," Putin added.

Putin also said he believes Russia can work with the new Kyrgyz leadership. "These are people we know very well, and we hope they will restore order there very soon," Putin said. Putin also said Russia has no objection if former Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev would like to live in Russia, Ekho Moskvy reported.
"These are people we know very well, and we hope they will restore order there very soon." -- Russian President Vladimir Putin

The Foreign Ministry on 24 March issued a statement saying Russia will not intervene in Kyrgyzstan, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 25 March. "We regret that there have been victims there and call for a return to legal means," the daily quoted Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying. Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov said on 24 March that "any intervention from outside Kyrgyzstan would be very unwelcome." "The Kyrgyz should regulate the situation themselves," Gryzlov said, according to ORT.

Federation Council Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Mikhail Margelov told ORT that "it is most important that Kyrgyzstan remain a secular state and avoid the establishment of a regime such as the one the Taliban set up in Afghanistan." Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov said the Akaev administration created the conditions for the current unrest. "The law must not be violated neither during elections nor at any other time," Mironov said, RBK reported on 24 March. RTR reported on 24 March that the situation at the Russian military base near Kant, Kyrgyzstan, and at the Russian Embassy in Bishkek is "normal."

Duma Security Committee Deputy Chairman Mikhail Grishankov (Unified Russia) said the Kyrgyz events remind him of the recent revolution in Georgia, RBK reported on 24 March. "I am deeply convinced that the organizer of these two events should be sought in the same place -- the United States," Grishankov said. One of Russia's main goals in Kyrgyzstan now is "to neutralize the negative impact of outside countries, especially Europe," he added. Motherland party leader Dmitrii Rogozin said on 24 March that Moscow should warn all parties that Russia might use force if necessary, reported. "One must not forget that China has territorial claims against Kyrgyzstan," Rogozin said. "Without Russia's support, [Kyrgyzstan] could not exist." Deputy Duma Speaker and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) head Vladimir Zhirinovskii said that Russia should step in decisively "to stop the 'tulip' revolution."

ORT commentator Mikhail Leontev, known for his vocal anti-Americanism, said on 23 and 24 March that the United States is behind the events in Kyrgyzstan and that Washington has decided "to obliterate all Russia influence in the post-Soviet space." "There is no such thing as a 'velvet' revolution," Leontev said. "A revolution always means self-sacrifice, victims, and blood. If someone orchestrated mass disturbances to restore power to a bunch of disgraced former ministers and senior bureaucrats, that is not a revolution."

Konstantin Zatulin, director of the CIS Institute, told TV-Tsentr on 24 March that Russia has no legal or formal grounds to intervene in Kyrgyzstan and that the Collective Security Treaty, to which both countries are signatories, does not have any provisions covering the current situation. He noted there was no foreign aggression against Kyrgyzstan and that Akaev did not ask for Russian assistance. Zatulin said the uprising was a domestic crisis caused by uneven economic development and the unfair distribution of wealth and power.

Zatulin, who usually espouses national-patriotic views, was extremely mild in describing the Kyrgyz situation. "It would be a mistake to call Akaev a pro-Russian figure and to say the opposition is controlled from abroad," he said. "We see no traces of America or anybody else there. All the events have a local character." Zatulin added that Russia might intervene in the future if the situation in Kyrgyzstan gets out of hand or if the new government asks for assistance.

Zatulin also said the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) is not only an organization but a geographic entity that cannot be changed. He added that there is no reason to think the new Kyrgyz administration will be more anti-Russian or anti-CIS than former President Akaev's was. He said there is a limit to how much Russia's influence in the region can be reduced. "Whatever happens, Russia will remain the strongest, biggest, and most resource-rich country in the region," Zatulin noted.