Opposition in Kyrgyzstan claims power after storming government buildings
Opposition groups in Kyrgyzstan say they have seized power after taking control of government buildings in the capital during protests over a parliamentary election.
- Two of Kyrgyzstan’s presidents have been removed in revolts in the past 15 years
- The country’s Interior Minister has been replaced by an opposition figure
- The election results behind the unrest are believed to have been marred by vote buying
President Sooronbai Jeenbekov said the country, which hosts a Russian air base and a large Canadian-controlled gold mine, was facing an attempted coup.
He ordered security forces not to shoot at protesters.
One person was killed and 590 wounded in unrest overnight, the Government said.
The opposition said it had freed Almazbek Atambayev, a former president jailed on corruption charges, and was already discussing the line-up of a provisional government.
It was not clear what role, if any, Mr Atambayev would play, while Mr Jeenbekov called for calm across the country.
Minister replaced, government building ransacked
Kyrgyzstan borders China, is a close ally of Russia and has long been a platform for geopolitical competition between Moscow, Washington and Beijing.
It has a history of political volatility — two of its presidents have been toppled by revolts in the past 15 years.
Burnt-out cars littered Bishkek, the capital, on Tuesday morning local time after protesters took control of the main government building, known as the White House, which briefly caught fire before emergency services put out the blaze.
Debris from inside, including government papers and office furniture, was strewn outside after protesters ransacked parts of it.
Interior Minister Kashkar Junushaliyev did not show up for work on Tuesday and has been replaced as acting interior minister by opposition politician and former senior security official Kursan Asanov, a ministry spokesman said.
Police had been ordered to ensure citizens’ safety and prevent clashes and looting, the same spokesman said.
Protesters free jailed former PM
Trouble erupted on Monday after police used teargas and water cannon to disperse thousands of people demonstrating against the results of a parliamentary election on Sunday, which they demanded be annulled.
Western observers said the election, which appeared to have handed most seats to two establishment parties supporting closer links between the former Soviet republic and Russia, had been marred by vote-buying.
One of the parties was close to the President.
Police broke up one protest late on Monday, but demonstrators later returned to Bishkek’s central square and broke into the White House, which houses both the President and Parliament, local news websites reported.
Protesters then broke into the headquarters of the State Committee on National Security and freed former president Mr Atambayev, who was sentenced to a lengthy prison term this year on corruption charges after falling out with Mr Jeenbekov, his successor.
Opposition groups took over several more buildings, including the mayor’s office, and appointed their own acting head of national security, acting prosecutor general and a commandant of Bishkek though it was unclear how much actual power they wielded.
Protesters also freed several former senior officials jailed under Mr Jeenbekov, including ex-prime minister Sapar Isakov and Mr Atambayev’s former chief of staff Farid Niyazov.
Several provincial governors have resigned, according to local media reports which said public rallies had begun on Tuesday in several provincial centres, most of them anti-Government.
Mr Jeenbekov’s supporters were gathering in the southern city of Osh, the same reports said, where his brother Asylbek Jeenbekov called for unity and order.