Friday, April 9, 2010

Russia Seeks US Out of Kyrgyzstan

BISHKEK, April 8: Kyrgyzstan’s self-proclaimed new leaders thanked Russia on Thursday for helping to oust President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, and said they aimed to close a US airbase that supplies forces in Afghanistan.

Their comments set Wednesday’s overthrow of Bakiyev, who fled the capital Bishkek as crowds stormed government buildings, firmly in the context of superpower rivalry in central Asia.

Russia noted Bakiyev had failed to fulfil a promise to shut the US airbase at Manas, and one official said there should be only one military base in the country — a Russian one.

Omurbek Tekebayev, a former Kyrgyz opposition leader who took charge of constitutional matters in the new government, said that “Russia played its role in ousting Bakiyev”. “You’ve seen the level of Russia’s joy when they saw Bakiyev gone,” he said.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin denied Moscow had played a part in the turmoil, but was the first foreign leader to recognise opposition leader Roza Otunbayeva as leader of Kyrgyzstan, and rang her soon after she said she was in charge.

Otunbayeva, who once served as toppled Kyrgy President Kurmanbek Bakiyev’s foreign minister, said the interim government controlled the whole country, except for toppled Kyrgz president’s power base of Osh and Jalalabad in the south, and had the backing of the armed forces and border guards.

Bakiyev announced the US base would close during a visit to Moscow last year at which he also secured $2 billion in crisis aid, only to agree later to keep it open at a higher rent.

Bakiyev said unidentified foreign forces were likely to have been involved in the unrest, although he refused to name any country. Himself brought to power by a “people power” revolution in 2005, Bakiyev refused to resign and said he was in southern Kyrgyzstan, but acknowledged he had little control over events.—Reuters

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