By Peter Leonard
April 7 2010
BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan – Thousands of protesters furious over corruption and spiraling utility bills seized government buildings and clashed with police Wednesday in Kyrgyzstan, throwing control of the Central Asian nation into doubt. Police opened fire on demonstrators, killing dozens and wounding hundreds.
The eruption of violence shattered the relative stability of this mountainous former Soviet republic, which houses a U.S. military base that is a key supply centre in the fight against the Taliban in nearby Afghanistan. The unrest in Kyrgyzstan did not appear likely to spread across former Soviet Central Asia, however.
The chaos erupted after elite police at government headquarters in the capital, Bishkek, began shooting to drive back crowds of demonstrators called onto the streets by opposition parties for a day of protest.
The crowds took control of the state TV building and looted it, then marched toward the Interior Ministry, according to Associated Press reporters on the scene, before changing direction and attacking a national security building nearby. They were repelled by security forces.
The leader of the main opposition party said on the former state television channel that he had formed a new government and was negotiating with the president and demanding he step down. Government officials could not immediately be reached for comment on the claim.
Dozens of wounded demonstrators lined the corridors of one of Bishkek’s main hospitals, a block away from the main square, where doctors were unable to cope with the flood of patients. Weeping nurses slumped over dead bodies, doctors shouted at each other and the floors were covered in blood.
Kyrgyzstan’s Health Ministry said 40 people had died and more than 400 were wounded in clashes with police. Opposition activist Toktoim Umetalieva said at least 100 people had died after police opened fire with live ammunition.
Opposition activist Shamil Murat told the AP that Interior Minister Moldomusa Kongatiyev had been beaten to death by a mob in the western town of Talas where the unrest began a day ago. The respected Fergana.ru Web site reported later that Kongatiyev was badly beaten but had not dead, saying its own reporter had witnessed the beating.
The unrest began Tuesday in the western city of Talas, where demonstrators stormed a government office and held a governor hostage, prompting a government warning of “severe” repercussions for continuing unrest.
The opposition called nationwide protests for Wednesday, vowing to defy increasingly authoritarian President Kurmanbek Bakiyev.
Since coming to power in 2005 on a wave of street protests known as the Tulip Revolution, Bakiyev has ensured a measure of stability, but many observers say he has done so at the expense of democratic standards while enriching himself and his family.
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. Many of the opposition leaders once were allies of Bakiyev.
Anti-government forces have been in disarray until recently, but widespread anger over a 200 per cent hike in electricity and heating gas bills has galvanized the fractious opposition.
Police in Bishkek at first used rubber bullets, tear gas, water cannons and concussion grenades Wednesday to try to control crowds of young men clad in black who were chasing police officers, beating them up and seizing their arms, trucks and armoured personnel carriers.
Some protesters then tried to use a personnel carrier to ram the gates of the government headquarters, known as the White House. Many of the protesters threw rocks, but about a half dozen young protesters shot Kalashnikovs into the air from the square in front of the building.
“We don’t want this rotten power!” protester Makhsat Talbadyev said, as he and others in Bishkek waved opposition party flags and chanted: “Bakiyev out!”
Some 200 elite police began firing, pushing the crowd back from the government headquarters. The president was not seen in public Wednesday and his whereabouts were unclear.
Protesters set fire to the prosecutor general’s office in the city centre, and a giant plume of black smoke billowed into the sky.
Groups of protesters then set out across Bishkek, attacking more government buildings.
At least 10 opposition leaders were arrested overnight and were being held at the security headquarters in Bishkek, opposition lawmaker Irina Karamushkina said.
One of them, Temir Sariyev, was freed Wednesday by protesters.
The U.S. State Department called for peace and restraint on both sides.
The prime minister, meanwhile, accused the opposition of provoking the violence in the country of 5 million people.
“What kind of opposition is this? They are just bandits,” Prime Minister Daniyar Usenov said.
Unrest also broke out for a second day in the western town of Talas and spread to the southern city of Naryn.
Some 5,000 protesters seized Naryn’s regional administration building and installed a new governor, opposition activist Adilet Eshenov said. At least four people were wounded in clashes, including the regional police chief, he said.
Another 10,000 protesters stormed police headquarters Wednesday in Talas, where on Tuesday protesters had held the regional governor hostage in his office.
The protesters beat up the interior minister, Kongatiyev, and forced him to call his subordinates in Bishkek and call off the crackdown on protesters, a correspondent for the local affiliate of U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty said.
Witnesses said the crowd in Talas looted police headquarters Wednesday, removing computers and furniture. Dozens of police officers left the building and mingled with protesters.
In the eastern region of Issyk-Kul, protesters seized the regional administration building and declared they installed their governor, the Ata-Meken opposition party said on its Web site.
Hundreds of protesters overran the government building Tuesday on Talas’ main square. They were initially dispersed by baton-wielding police, but then fought through tear gas and flash grenades to regroup, burning police cars and hurling stones and Molotov cocktails.
Usenov said Tuesday’s violence in Talas had left 85 officers injured and 15 unaccounted for.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who met with Bakiyev in Kyrgyzstan on Sunday, arrived in Moscow on Wednesday at the end of a trip to several Central Asian nations.
“The secretary-general is shocked by the reported deaths and injuries that have occurred today in Kyrgyzstan,” U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said. “He once again calls on all concerned to show restraint. He urgently appeals for dialogue and calm to avoid further bloodshed.”
The leaders of the four other former Soviet republics in the region were certain to be watching events in Bishkek with concern, but the authoritarian, and in some cases dictatorial, natures of their governments would likely allow them to squash any attempts to challenge their rules.
In Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, people have been too terrified to challenge Stalinist-style governments. In Tajikistan, the legacy of a 1990s civil war has made people wary of conflict. Immediate unrest also appeared unlikely in energy-rich Kazakhstan, where politically apathy is combined with a weak opposition.
After the March 2005 protests that brought Bakiyev to power, some hoped that the democracy he then promised to bring to Kyrgyzstan would spread to the other former Soviet republics in the region. But those countries responded by clamping down further, equating democracy with regime change.
Just two months later, in May 2005, the Uzbek government brutally suppressed an uprising in the city of Andijan.
Writer Leila Saralayeva contributed to this report.
This is what happens when you piss people off. You cannot steal from people and oppress them and expect them to sit ideally by and do nothing. Sooner or latter they will turn on you.
A state of emergency has been declared in Kyrgyzstan as thousands of protesters calling for President Bakiev to resign, clash with police across the country. Unconfirmed reports suggest at least 17 people have been killed and hundreds injured. Witnesses say Kyrgyz interior minister has died from injuries in Kyrgyz city of Talas.
A state of emergency has been declared in Kyrgyzstan as thousands of protesters calling for President Bakiev to resign, clash with police across the country. Unconfirmed reports suggest at least 17 people have been killed and over 140 are injured.
Kyrgyzstan’s President Kurmanbek Bakiyev has reportedly left the country after thousands of protesters, calling for him to step down, clashed with police. The opposition claims one hundred people have been killed, but the country’s Health Ministry, says the number of dead is 40.
Where there is US involvement there are always problems. Leaders the US stand behind are unusably corrupt and oppress the people. History tells us that. Most countries do not want US Military bases on their soil.
When there are problems in a country, more times then not, the cookie crumbs lead back to the US. The US just wants Kyrgyzstan so they can use it to wage war. Which is just what they have been doing. That is what all their Military bases are for to wage war on other countries. The US could care less about the people living in Kyrgyzstan however. With their Military bases comes war, pollution and crime.
Kyrgyz elders want US base shut, troops gone
March 14 2010
The Council of Elders in Kyrgyzstan has demanded that the country’s authorities shut down a US base at Manas International Airport outside the capital, Bishkek. Besides the closure demand, the council is also calling for an immediate withdrawal of the US Troops from their country. “Until the entire contingent leaves [Kyrgyzstan], all flights of combat airplanes must be banned, but civilian airplanes can be authorized to deliver humanitarian and other peaceful supplies,” they said.
The military presence of the U.S. and other NATO member states in the territory of Kyrgyzstan poses a threat to our national interests,” the council said in a statement read at a news conference on Wednesday. Source
Kyrgyz rally against US air base
Some 100 activists from two Kyrgyz political groups rallied Tuesday in capital Bishkek, calling for withdrawal of the US air base from Kyrgyzstan.Protesters from the nationalist Zhoomart group and the Sergiy Radonezhsky Fund cheered as Zhoomart’s leader Nurlan Motuyev publicly burned a US flag and an effigy of US President George W. Bush.
“Americans are the first to begin wars everywhere, they kill peaceful Muslims, spill fuel on our soil and make farmers suffer from poor crops. Away with the air base!” Motuyev called.
“There is a threat that if a US base stays in Kyrgyzstan, Muslim countries like Iraq, Afghanistan and China would take vengeance on us,” the Fund’s leader Igor Trofimov warned.
Police, though present, did not interfere.
Local protests against US military presence are often staged both in Bishkek and next to the air base.
The air base, which shares premises with the country’s main airport at Manas, outside the capital, is crucial to Washington’s operations in Afghanistan.
About 1,000 US troops are stationed at Manas. Source
PROTESTS AGAINST U.S. MILITARY PRESENCE HELD IN BISHKEK
The U.S. image in Kyrgyzstan was considerably tarnished following the shooting of a Kyrgyz truck driver Aleksander Ivanov in December 2006 by U.S. serviceman Zackary Hatfield. Since then a group of activists, including Ivanov’s widow Marina Ivanova, several journalists, and NGO leaders have been active campaigning for the withdrawal of the U.S. base. Source
Kyrgyzstan unveils US military training base plan
March 7 2010
BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan (AP) – Officials in the impoverished Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan say the United States plans to build a $5 million military base for training local troops to assist in the fight against international terrorism.
Kyrgyzstan already hosts a U.S. military base in Manas, outside the capital Bishkek, used by Washington as a regional hub for the U.S.-led war in nearby Afghanistan.
A Kyrgyz Defense Ministry statement released Wednesday says the training base – complete with barracks, dining hall, classrooms and an assault course – will be constructed near the southern town of Batken.
No timeframe was mentioned.
The Kyrgyz government last year backed off a threat to evict U.S. forces from Manas after Washington offered to increase the rent it pays threefold. Source
Raising the price of heat and hydro over 200 percent is just stupid. I wonder if the President had share in the companies?
Privatization leads to higher prices.
Then there are those who wish to exploit the countries resources.
Kyrgyzstan – prospective one day, poison the next
April 08, 2010
Australian explorers have been keen on this country for some time – it is known to contain uranium (it being the first source of yellowcake when the Soviet Union went nuclear after World War II) and has great promise with gold, base metals, geothermal and hydrocarbon. And, it must be added, the uprising may be shortlived, a new government may well ensure that resources companies are unaffected and most of the projects are located well away from the capital and strife.
But this surge of political risk couldn’t have come at a worse time for Kentor Gold which is on the brink of giving the green light to its Andash copper gold development.
Others affected include Caspian Oil & Gas which has a large acreage position around the Fergana Basin, an area which has been supporting oil production the early 1900s. In late February CIG announced that its joint venture partner in Kyrgyzstan,Santos, had decided to withdraw after spending $US16 million on the project. Caspian is now looking for a new JV partner.
And it was just last week that Manas Resources announced some very encouraging gold drilling results from its Shambesai project in the central Asian republic.
But there are a couple of juniors that will be thinking they dodged a bullet.
Panax Geothermal has effectively wound back work in the country while it awaits news on its application for World Bank financing, Ram Resources last year handed over its Kyrgyzstan interests in lieu of debt to its former Canadian partner, while Namibian Copper last year kicked the tyres on two uranium projects before deciding that Africa was a better bet.
The writer implies no investment recommendation and this report contains material that is speculative in nature. Investors should seek professional investment advice. The writer does not shares in any company mentioned.
April 8 2010 Updates
PM and cabinet of Kyrgyzstan resign and flee the country
Kyrgyzstan’s Prime Minister Daniyar Usenov with his entire cabinet resigned last night and fled to neighbouring Kazakhstan. Anti-government protesters have seized the Parliament and clashed with security forces in which at least 40 people were killed and over 400 injured.
Interfax news agency reported from capital Bishkek that Usenov signed his cabinet’s resignation and handed over the powers to the leader opposition in Parliament Roza Otunbayeva.
Later in a statement Otunbayeva declared that the power in this of Central Asian republic has been assumed by the government of popular trust. Source
The death toll is between 68 and 100. The number was about 40 deaths earlier.
Update April 9 2010