Andrew Osborn








Civil war fear as Kyrgyzstan's ousted leader plots a return

The Daily Telegraph, 10th April 2010 10:52

By Andrew Osborn in Bishkek

FEARS of a civil war in Kyrgyzstan escalated yesterday as Roza Otunbayeva, the country's new self-proclaimed leader, warned that Kurmanbek Bakiyev, the overthrown president, was plotting a comeback in the south.

Mrs Otunbayeva, the central Asian country's former ambassador to Britain, urged the man she deposed to flee the country and end a tense standoff that has already left at least 76 people dead.

She said she would guarantee his safety if he left quietly. "Bakiyev is trying everything to win back power," she said.

"He has the possibility to flee the country.

"We guarantee his personal safety if he formally resigns his office."

But there were few signs that Mr Bakiyev planned to do so. Holed up in his southern stronghold of Jalalabad, Mr Bakiyev insisted he was a force to be dealt with even though he has lost control over the armed forces, police and secret service.

"I don't admit defeat in any way," he told a Russian radio station. "I do not believe this is a defeat for me."

But Mrs Otunbayeva, the head of the new interim government, said he had run out of options and she had credible intelligence that he was planning to resort to violence.

Officials loyal to Mrs Otunbayeva have already opened a criminal case against Mr Bakiyev's brother, who was in charge of the president's security when violence erupted on Wednesday in Bishkek, the capital.

"He was the one who gave the order to fire [at the crowd]," she said. "We have evidence from people who were part of his team. We need to restore justice."

The ousted president insisted that he did not give any order for forces to open fire on protesters in Bishkek. "I am not the one with blood on my hands," he said.

Sitting in an unassuming office in the defence ministry, Mrs Otunbayeva lamented that Kyrgyzstan was virtually bankrupt because the previous regime had exhausted its revenues.

As she struggled to put a figure on the country's cash reserves, an aide told her it looked like there was as little as the equivalent of just £14million remaining. "We have not got much money left," she said. "It is a really serious problem."

One of her political allies travelled to Moscow yesterday in an effort to finalise a Russian aid package, a gesture that many analysts have seen as a sign that Moscow is seeking to shore up its depleted influence in a part of the world it considers its backyard. Russia is the only country so far to have recognised her self-proclaimed government. Meanwhile, the capital Bishkek remained tense. Looters continued to forage in the town's burnt-out government buildings as thousands of people turned out to mourn those killed in the country's second coup in five years. Hotels housing foreign nationals told guests to turn lights out after dark so as not to attract marauders.