Osh was the scene of the gunfire at a pro-Bakiyev rallyImage: picture-alliance/ dpa
April 15, 2010
Bursts of gunfire were heard at a rally backing Kyrgyzstan's toppled President Kurmanbek Bakiyev on Thursday, as the country's new leadership called for the former leader to face trial.
Gunfire cut short a rally for ousted President Kurmanbek Bakiyev in southern Kyrgyzstan on Thursday.
The shooting began as Bakiyev took the podium to address an estimated 1,000 supporters in Osh, the country's second-largest city. A rival gathering of perhaps 2,000 interim government supporters was taking place only a few hundred meters (yards) away.
There was no immediate information on injuries, and it was unclear who fired the shots.
Bakiyev was whisked to a waiting car by bodyguards and his motorcade was seen racing away from the city center.
Kyrgyzstan's interim leader Roza Otunbayeva, meanwhile, has reiterated demands that President Bakiyev stand trial for the deaths of 84 people killed during the popular uprising last Wednesday.
"Bakiyev has exceeded the limits of his immunity by spilling blood and now he must be brought to trial and answer before the law," she said, refusing to offer a compromise to the ousted leader, who has been hinting that he would cede power if granted safe passage out of the country.
Last week, Bakiyev retreated to a family compound in the village of Teyit in the country's southern province of Jalalabad, about a two-hour drive from Osh.
Speculation about early exit
Bakiyev said in an interview with Reuters that he would only step down if "the roaming of these armed people ends in Kyrgyzstan, that this redistribution of property and this armed free-for-all stops."
He also demanded guaranteed safe passage for himself and his family, and that presidential elections be held "within two or three months."
Bakiyev reportedly spoke with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin by telephone on Thursday, fueling speculation that he may leave the country.
Rights campaigners who met with Bakiyev say that he is ready to help legitimize the new government, if his own safety can be assured.
"He expressed readiness to meet Otunbayeva and discuss how to bring the situation back into the legal framework, to hand over his power and add legitimacy to the new government," Aziza Abdirasulova told Reuters by telephone from Jalalabad.
"He looked depressed. He had a tragic feel about him. He looked tired."
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, in Washington to attend a nuclear security summit, said on Tuesday evening that Kyrgyzstan was "on the brink of ... a civil war [which] could attract terrorists of all kinds."
"The situation in Kyrgyzstan is difficult," Medvedev said. "Once again Kyrgyzstan is living through a stage of illegitimate developments, and the responsibility for that must be borne by the Kyrgyz authorities who didn't settle numerous conflicts [that were] brewing."
Support pledged by US, Russia
Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kurdin announced on Wednesday that Moscow would supply Krygyzstan's new leadership with a humanitarian aid grant of roughly 14.5 million euros ($20 million), and a low-interest loan of just under 22 million euros.
"We have always had special relations with the Kyrgyz people, and of course we must help our friends in hard times," Prime Minister Putin said in a televised address.
Meanwhile, a top US diplomat visited the capital, Bishkek, for talks on Wednesday with the country's interim leaders about defusing the crisis.
Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake met with Otunbayeva and offered a guarded signal of support for the first steps taken by her interim government.
"I feel optimistic about the steps that the government already has taken [to organize new elections]", Blake said. "The United States is prepared to help, and we discussed a number of ways that we might be able to help in that regard."
Kyrgyzstan is the only country in the world with both US and Russian military bases. The Manas air base is a key supply route for NATO and US troops in Afghanistan. Russia's Kant airbase is located 12 miles east of Bishkek.