Aletho News


Kyrgyz protesters seize government office

Daily News with wires | April 6, 2010

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan – Angry protestors burst through police lines and storm government offices in a remote regional center in the northwest of ex-Soviet Kyrgyzstan. A series of nationwide rallies is planned for Wednesday and analysts said they believe the unrest could spread

Hundreds of protesters angry over rising heat and power prices stormed a government building Tuesday and clashed with troops after trying to seize a regional governor in the impoverished former Soviet nation of Kyrgyzstan.

A series of nationwide rallies is planned for Wednesday and analysts said they believe the unrest could spread. The government warned of “severe” repercussions and the main opposition party said U.S. and Russian diplomats should call on the government to refrain from violence.

Police reportedly fired warning shots to disperse the crowds, which overran offices in the regional center of Talas, a day after the main United People’s Movement, or UPM, opposition group promised nationwide protests.

Human rights worker Shamil Murat, speaking to AFP by telephone from inside the administration building, said the protesters had announced their own replacement to the local governor. “Opposition supporters have appointed their own regional governor, Koysun Kurmanaliyev, and are not going to accept the regional administration heads appointed by the president,” he said.

Crowds assembled in Talas early Tuesday to protest the utility tariff increases and to call for the resignation of regional governor Bolotbek Beishenbekov, town residents told The Associated Press by telephone.

The protesters encircled Beishenbekov who was outside the building, planning to take him hostage, but he was freed by elite army troops, said Shamil Murat, an activist with the rights group For Democracy and Civil Society.

Firm line vowed

A correspondent for the local affiliate of U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Talas said one person was shot with a rubber bullet fired from inside the police precinct.

The Interior Ministry said a drunken mob had entered the regional government office and later left, and police were taking measures to ensure stability and public safety.

Prime Minister Daniyar Usenov vowed to take a firm line against the people behind the troubles in Talas.

“I urge the organizers of these actions to desist from what they are doing. For those that do not listen, measures will be severe,” Usenov said.

Signs of unrest in the country will likely be closely monitored by the United States, which maintains an airfield near the Kyrgyz capital to transport troops and supplies to support coalition operations in Afghanistan.

Since coming to power on a wave of street protests in 2005, President Kurmanbek Bakiyev has ensured a measure of stability, but many observers say he has done so at the expense of democratic standards.

Over the past two years, Kyrgyz authorities have clamped down on free media, and opposition activists say they have routinely been subjected to physical intimidation and targeted by politically motivated criminal investigations. Anti-government forces have been in disarray until recently, but widespread anger over soaring utility bills has galvanized the fractious opposition.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Saturday repeatedly criticized Kyrgyzstan for human rights problems, a strong rebuke to the country once regarded as former Soviet Central Asia’s “island of democracy.”

April 6, 2010 - Posted by | Civil Liberties

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