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Former Mayor Of Osh Returns To Kyrgyzstan, Says Country Is In 'Dangerous Situation'

Melis Myrzakmatov (center left), the former mayor of Osh, Kyrgyzstan, addresses a crowd in the city after returning on October 7, five years after being sentenced in absentia for abuse of power and corruption.

Melis Myrzakmatov, the former mayor of Osh, returned to the city on October 7 and immediately addressed supporters, telling them Kyrgyzstan is "in a very dangerous situation" after opposition parties claimed the October 4 parliamentary elections were manipulated and unfair, touching off protests that turned violent.

Myrzakmatov arrived from Turkey at the Osh international airport after midnight and went to the central square, where thousands of supporters were waiting for him, according to RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service.

Myrzakmatov urged them "to preserve national unity and resist forces interested in organizing a civil war and dividing the country."

He also said that the parliamentary elections were "very dirty" and that only worthy people should be elected to the Kyrgyz parliament.

Myrzakmatov arrived in Kyrgyzstan's second-largest city after Kyrgyz officials annulled the results of the elections following chaotic protests that broke out in Bishkek and other cities on October 5 and spilled into the next day. Various political forces claimed to have seized power in what President Sooronbai Jeenbekov described as a coup.

Jeenbekov, whose whereabouts are unknown, called for calm as he described in a brief video the actions of angry demonstrators who took over government, television, and security buildings as an attempt by some political forces to illegally seize power.

It is unclear who is in charge, with both the president and opposition parties claiming authority.

Kyrgyz President Sooronbai Jeenbekov
Kyrgyz President Sooronbai Jeenbekov

The Central Election Commission said on October 6 that the election results had been canceled and would be rerun. It provided no further details.

Myrzakmatov said "thieves and crooks" were preparing to sow confusion, "but we will not allow this and will fight for the country's integrity and its development."

The former mayor of Osh was sentenced to seven years in prison in absentia in 2015 by the Osh City Court after it found him guilty of abuse of power and corruption.

Myrzakmatov was the only prominent official with ties to former President Kurmanbek Bakiev who managed to hold onto his post after Bakiev's ouster and deadly interethnic clashes in Osh and nearby areas in 2010.

The Kyrgyz government managed to sack Myrzakmatov in December 2013 after several unsuccessful attempts.

He failed to regain his post in a January 2014 election, and later disappeared after Kyrgyz authorities began investigating allegations that he had ordered illegal infrastructure projects.

He considers the criminal case against him to be political persecution.

The political leadership in the city is currently in the hands of parliamentary deputy Duyshonkul Torokulov, but his grasp on power is tenuous. Torokulov proclaimed himself mayor, saying former mayor Taalaibek Sarybashev transferred power to him.

People attending the rally in Osh demanded the formal resignation of Sarybashev, and the Osh City Council later held an extraordinary meeting at which it showed no confidence in the mayor.

The election results in Kyrgyzstan, a close ally of Russia which has long been a platform for geopolitical competition between Moscow, Washington, and Beijing, sparked a tumultuous night of protests and clashes in Bishkek on October 5.

In chaotic scenes, demonstrators broke into the building housing the parliament and presidential offices, and set free Almazbek Atambaev, a former president jailed earlier this year on corruption charges.

Police used water cannon, rubber bullets, tear gas, and stun grenades to disperse the crowd, according to RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service. The mayhem left one person dead and 590 injured.