WASHINGTON (RFE/RL) -- Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has warned that Kyrgyzstan may be plunged into a civil war if the standoff between embattled President Kurmanbek Bakiev and the self-declared interim government is not resolved soon.
Medvedev made the comments at Washington's Brookings Institution on April 13 after the close of the White House's Nuclear Security Summit.
The Russian leader told the audience that "the risk of Kyrgyzstan breaking apart into the south and the north really exists."
"What is most important now is to prevent a civil war," Medvedev said. "And I believe that Kyrgyzstan is on the verge of a civil war now, and all [political] forces in Kyrgyzstan should understand their responsibility to the Kyrgyz nation, the Kyrgyz people, and the future of the Kyrgyz state."
Last week the Kyrgyz prime minister resigned and Bakiev fled Bishkek after antigovernment protests turned deadly. More than 80 people died in the clashes and some 1,000 were injured.
On April 13, Bakiev said he would step down if security is guaranteed for himself and his relatives. Opposition leaders stripped Bakiev of his presidential immunity and gave him until the end of the day to surrender.
Ousted President Kurmanbek Bakiev speaks during a news conference in southern Kyrgyzstan on April 13.
In reference to those developments, Medvedev said, "Some [Kyrgyz] political leaders will have to make a decision about their fate." He cautioned that Kyrgyzstan must not become a "failed state" and called for calm in resolving the political standoff.
"We understand perfectly well what a civil war means in the current conditions," Medvedev said. "If, God forbid, it starts today, it will immediately attract terrorists and extremists of all kinds, because such conflicts create the best possible conditions for radical movements, and Kyrgyzstan may turn into a second Afghanistan as it used to be some time ago."Important New START
In his wide-ranging comments, the Russian leader also advocated simultaneous U.S. and Russian ratification of the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which he and Obama signed in Prague on May 8.
The treaty, which significantly reduces the number of deployed warheads in the U.S. and Russian arsenals, must be ratified by both the U.S. Congress and the Russian Duma to take effect.
Medvedev suggested that the two bodies coordinate their ratification votes in an effort to keep political maneuvering to a minimum.
A deeply partisan mood in the U.S. Congress and legislative elections this fall have cast doubt on the willingness of the U.S. Senate to ratify the treaty.
Medvedev urged U.S. senators to act. "If there is no ratification, that means we have returned to the Soviet times when such treaties were not ratified," he said.
Medvedev said he was open to working with U.S. President Barack Obama on possible further cuts in the arsenals of both countries, and said the historic nature of the START replacement should not be underestimated.
He called it a sign of newfound cooperation between the two countries, saying, "We have managed to change the atmosphere" in relations between Moscow and Washington.
WTO Talks, Iran Sanctions
Medvedev also called on the United States to support Russia's effort to join the World Trade Organization (WTO). Russia is the world's largest economy not included in the global trade body and maintains the United States has hindered its efforts to join.
Russian accession talks to the WTO began in 1993, but have repeatedly been stalled by trade or tariff issues.
Medvedev said his country should join the WTO "without humiliation or new demands." Saying that Russian accession into the body had become politicized, Medvedev added, "They have made the WTO into a carrot to hang in front of us and say, 'If you behave nicely you will get in.'"
Medvedev also called for increased bilateral investment between the United States and Russia and said that the recent successful cooperation between the two countries should be extended into the economic sphere.
On the subject of international suspicion over Iran's nuclear program, the Russian president warned against sanctions that would punish Iranian citizens.
But he added that world powers would have to consider sanctions against Tehran unless it proves that its nuclear program is intended only for civilian purposes.