Postcards And Update From Revolutionary Kyrgyzstan
One day after revolution swept this central Asian country, it has largely disappeared from the mainstream media. Which is why it means it is time for an update. The following was posted on blog Russian Scoop:
Looting and arson of retail outlets and VIP homes continues in Bishkek. A neighborhood housing foreign diplomats has been ransacked, as have the homes of the deposed prime minister and the president's son. The national art museum is said to have been looted. City police have successfully defended their headquarters against an angry mob of several thousand. Shots have been heard throughout the city through all of last night and all day long today. As in 2005, the main culprits seem to be poor, recent arrivals to the city as well as village dwellers who traveled into town overnight on buses or other commandeered vehicles, taking advantage of the political chaos and police disorganization to grab whatever they can, including weapons. Some of the looters are said to be moving from neighborhood to neighborhood in organized fashion, on buses, en masse. They are being opposed by several thousand spontaneously organized, partially-armed civilian volunteer militia (identified by red, blue, or white armbands) and shopkeepers defending their property as well as any police willing and able to remain on duty. Firefights between looters and defenders are occurring as frequently as several times per hour. The casualty toll from yesterday's political events, before today's battle over property, has reached 75 dead and 1000 injured. A more recent figure is not available. People are standing in line at hospitals to donate blood. Army units are said to be arriving into town at this time.
President Bakiev and his ruling family are confirmed as hiding out in their southern hometown of Osh, the country's second largest city. Bakiev has made a statement in which he refused to renounce his post, but claimed to be willing to stand a fair trial. His recalcitrance could become a major problem, as the previously-deposed ruling family fled the country during the 2005 revolution, making things easier for the new government.
The security forces are said to have pledged their loyalty to the provisional government. Political exiles are returning from Europe and the USA at this time, presumably through Kazakhstan as the Bishkek airport is said to be closed. Russia has recognized the provisional government. The USA has not, although U.S. Embassy staff are said to be in talks with the new leaders.
Access to the Youtube website has been blocked in Kazakhstan, presumably to prevent the population from getting any ideas about how to uninstall their own government. Official media in Uzbekistan have not reported on Kyrgyz events at all.
One thing of notice is that Kyrgyzstan is the location of a key US air base,which is used by the US and NATO for Afghanistan air strike campaigns. It seems the provisional government is not too keen on maintaining a relationship with the US.
A senior official in Kyrgyzstan's self-proclaimed government said on Thursday that there was a high probability that the U.S. lease of an air base serving Afghanistan would be shortened.
"Russia played its role in ousting Bakiyev," Omurbek Tekebayev, a former opposition leader who is now in charge of constitutional matters in the government that said it had taken over power from President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, told Reuters.
"You've seen the level of Russia's joy when they saw Bakiyev gone," he said. "So now there is a high probability that the duration of the U.S. air base's presence in Kyrgyzstan will be shortened."
The United States has leased the Manas air base, which provides crucial support for military operations in nearby Afghanistan, since shortly after the war there began in 2001.
In the meantime, Russian having learned not to let a crisis got to waste, is getting involved. Via Interfax:
Medvedev also confirmed that Russia would be sending troops to Kyrgyzstan to protect Russians there.
Here are some pictures of the Bishkeh revolution:
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