Kyrgyz president orders army into the capital; rival factions fight in central square

BISHKEK/OCT. 9 (The Bulletin) – Kyrgyz President Sooronbai Jeenbekov ordered the army onto the streets of Bishkek on Friday in an apparent attempt to try to regain control of Kyrgyzstan, four days after protesters stormed several government buildings.

Shortly after he imposed a state-of-emergency on Bishkek, thousands of people supporting different factions competing for influence in the power vacuum that has opened up since a revolution on Monday converged on a central square. The rallies had been building throughout the day and fighting broke out, shots were fired, triggering a stampede, and hundreds of people started running through the streets.

Later, video appeared online apparently showing two men firing pistols at a car carrying former Kyrgyz president Almazbek Atambayev.

Kyrgyzstan has been sliding into anarchy since its third revolution in 15 years. There has, seemingly, been no effective government and no security for most of the week.

On Friday, inside the compound of the White House, the main government building in Bishkek, protesters lounged on office chairs and smoked cigarettes. They had stormed the building on and its gates were now held together with hosepipe and rope.

Police had melted away after being overwhelmed on Monday. Since then, groups of citizens wearing orange hi-viz vests had patrolled the streets of Bishkek, guarding, they said, against looters.

But Pres. Jeenbekov may now be trying to regain control of this small Soviet state. He said that he had ordered the army into Bishkek to protect people from mob rule.

“Our citizens and compatriots should not fall victim to any political forces,” he said in a statement.

Since fleeing Bishkek on Monday, Jeenbekov has said very little other than that he fancied resigning.

His resolve to send in the army may be linked to Russia which has said that it has started advising the Kyrgyz security forces. Russia is the powerbroker in Central Asia and with plenty of problems already to consider — from war between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, to anti-government protests in Belarus and the apparent poisoning of Kremlin opponent Alexey Navalny — Russian President Vladimir Putin may have ordered Jeenbekov to clean up the mess in Kyrgyzstan.

The trigger for the protests and the revolution was a parliamentary election on Sunday which protesters said was rigged. Official results had blocked opposition parties from parliament. These results have since been annulled and a second election is planned.

Kyrgyzstan’s Parliament is due to hold a special session on Saturday at the President’s official residence to decide on a new prime minister.


(Reporting by James Kilner in Bishkek)

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