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Freed Opposition Leader Talks To RFE/RL

Kulov talking after being released yesterday Feliks Kulov, former Kyrgyz vice president, Bishkek mayor, and chairman of the opposition party Ar-Namys, was released on 24 March from the Bishkek jail where he had served four years of a combined 17 year sentence on charges of embezzlement and abuse of office. Immediately after his release, Kulov spoke to RFE/RL correspondents Jean-Christophe Peuch and Andrei Babitsky about the threat of more violence and disorder.

Feliks Kulov: There is nobody currently that we can send into the streets to maintain order. I've gathered a handful of people and together with them I'm trying myself to maintain order. For the time being, there is no other way [to maintain order]. I've been almost everywhere and I spoke on the square and told people to stay calm. But we need to work on this. But now, the police forces are so demoralized.

RFE/RL: Do you know where Akaev is?

Kulov: I have no concrete information. I also heard that he left Bishkek. No, I said earlier on TV that order really needs to be maintained until there is a new team in power. We cannot risk the new state representatives who will come to power tomorrow being pushed out. Our first goal is to proceed peacefully with a change of power. And, more importantly, that no persecution follows this change of power, as we are a small people.

RFE/RL: What would you say today to the state officials who put you in jail?

Kulov: I forgive all of them. I am not ashamed of [anything I did]. If I seek revenge, I would then lose face.

RFE/RL: Do you think you can control the street today?

Kulov: We will try to do it [establish order in Bishkek] by tomorrow morning. I will do all I can, although you understand that I have been disconnected from these matters, from the [security] forces and personnel for five years [while in jail]. I will need to rely on a handful of former colleagues and see what we can do. There is a lot of work to do. There are provocateurs. I've received some specific information and we'll look into it. I said in a TV interview that violence should stop and we'll try to maintain order. But people here are very poor understand [that there could be some incidents].

RFE/RL: Is there a risk to lose control?

Kulov: No, I don't think we will lose control [of the street]. I think we'll find a way to maintain order by tomorrow morning [25 March].

RFE/RL: What do you think could happen in the region?

Kulov: All the CIS countries are concerned. I know that the embassies of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Russia, the United States are concerned with what is happening, and I think they will provide their help in resolving this conflict peacefully.

RFE/RL: Would you be interested now in leading the opposition? Is this something that you would look forward to in the near future?

Kulov: I did not get out of jail to take power. I got out to try to avoid massive disorder in the streets. Why did I get out [of jail]? According to the law I didn't have the right to get out. You understand that a court decision is required for that. But when a very large crowd came to set me free, the chief arrived and said I should get out to prevent the prison from being destroyed. There is a notion of absolute necessity in criminal law. So with that absolute necessity in mind, the decision was made, within the law, that I should leave. As soon as a different decision is taken I'll go back [to jail].

RFE/RL: But if there is a decision from the new president...

Kulov: No, this would not work. Everything has to be done according to the law. There should be a parliamentary decision. The parliament should decide what new government should be.

RFE/RL: Would you accept being part of the new government?

Kulov:This is not my first goal. I know this is a very difficult job.