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Kyrgyzstan protests escalate

Anti-government protests in the southern Kyrgyz cities of Osh and Jalalabad seem to be spiralling beyond the control of President Askar Akayev and his government today. 

Nathan at is continuing to do a great job of covering the news and rumours as they come flying out:

As noted yesterday, the southern cities of Jalalabad and Osh are beyond the control of Bishkek. Akayev’s whereabouts are unknown.

The protests look to be turning pretty ugly – Nathan’s report includes photographs of what looks like rioting and looting.

A government attempt to regain control of the situation in Osh yesterday – during which a number of protestors and police were killed – seems not to have been particularly succesful.  The police there have today declared their solidarity with the protestors. 

More importantly, perhaps, are rumours – and I really would like to stress that these are rumours at the moment and that I have no independent verification of them – that President Akayev is nowhere to be found, and that Kyrgyz tv has shut down and newspapers have been banned from printing. Update 22/3: Looks like both these rumours were just that, rumours.  No other source has said the tv was off, so I’m pretty prepared to discount that rumour and Akayev seems to still be around issuing statements.  And there is certainly no news that protest has spread to the capital, so there would be little reason for him to make a run for the hills at this stage.

The Russian Foreign Ministry’s response, cited by Interfax, is oddly contradictory:

"Actions that overstep the legal framework escalate tensions, have a negative effect on the political situation and deserve condemnation," the statement says. […]

The ministry sees "nothing extraordinary in the fact that not everyone is satisfied with the election results."

I’m guessing that Russia really doesn’t know quite which way to turn here.  They’ve had their fingers burnt quite badly for meddling in elections over the last few months, and they’re trying to keep good relations with the Kyrgyz government without at the same time burning their bridges to the Kyrgyz opposition. 

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