Ousted Kyrgyz president flees country

Provisional leader calls his departure an important step

President Kurmanbek Bakiyev was told by the provisional government that he should leave quickly or face a trial. President Kurmanbek Bakiyev was told by the provisional government that he should leave quickly or face a trial. (Denis Sinyakov/Reuters)
By Peter Leonard
Associated Press / April 16, 2010

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OSH, Kyrgyzstan — The deposed president of Kyrgyzstan left the country yesterday for neighboring Kazakhstan, allaying fears of a civil war in the Central Asian nation, which hosts a key US military base supporting the war in Afghanistan.

The presidents of the United States, Russia, and Kazakhstan helped arrange for President Kurmanbek Bakiyev of Kyrgyzstan to leave the country, Kazakhstan said in its role as the rotating chair of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. It called Bakiyev’s move “an important step toward . . . the prevention of a civil war in Kyrgyzstan.’’

Kyrgyzstan’s provisional leader, Roza Otunbayeva, later showed reporters what she said was a formal letter of resignation handwritten by Bakiyev and received by fax.

“Aware of my responsibility for the future of the people and the preservation of the integrity of the state . . . I herewith submit my resignation,’’ the letter said.

Otunbayeva said that Bakiyev’s departure would prevent clashes between various groups and even regions.

“The conflict is over, the people in all parts of the country are united in their condemnation of the bloody regime,’’ Otunbayeva said.

Witnesses said Bakiyev flew out from the southern city of Jalal-Abad in a military transport aircraft. The Kremlin said later that the Russian Defense Ministry arranged the flight.

Otunbayeva said that Bakiyev’s departure was the only way to avoid the escalation of tensions and setting of one part of the nation against another.

Bakiyev flew to Kazakhstan after the provisional government’s warning that he should leave quickly or face trial.

“He had to leave the country because he was afraid of people’s justice,’’ deputy head of the new government, Omurbek Tekebayev, said.

Bakiyev was driven from the capital, Bishkek, on April 7 after police opened fire on protesters, who then stormed government buildings. At least 83 people died in the violence.

He fled to Kyrgyzstan’s south, his clan power base, and began to rally support, prompting fears that the impoverished country might split into two.

But his efforts suffered a severe blow early yesterday when he tried to speak to a rally in Osh, the region’s biggest city. Within a few moments of his taking the stage, gunfire split the air, and he was hustled away.

Witnesses said the shots came from his bodyguards, who may have been frightened by a group of Bakiyev opponents approaching the rally. Although there were no reports of injuries, the incident was a humiliating setback to Bakiyev’s effort to contend he is still the legitimate president.

Bakiyev had said earlier he would be willing to resign if security guarantees were given to him and close relatives. The interim authorities offered him such guarantees but refused them for his family. Bakiyev’s opponents have blamed him and his family for last week’s violence, as well as for rampant corruption and other abuses.