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Protests topple Kyrgyz government, Roza Otunbayeva takes charge

Kyrgyzstan President Kurmanbek Bakiyev appeared to confirm Thursday he had lost control of the country's armed forces as former ally Roza Otunbayeva took charge of a provisional Kyrgyz government.

By Correspondent / April 8, 2010

Protesters gather in front of the Kyrgyz government headquarters on the central square in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, Thursday. In a press conference, Roza Otunbayeva, a one-time ally of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, said the provisional government will work for six months to 'stabilize the situation.'

Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP

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Moscow

Post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan, home to America's key Manas airbase, is in turmoil and possibly on the brink of civil war after a group of political insiders, riding a popular rebellion, seized power in the capital Bishkek. Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who came to power following a similar revolt five years ago, has reportedly fled to his home town of Osh, in the country's south, where he is said to be mobilizing his supporters.

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What comes next is uncertain. Roza Otunbayeva, a one-time ally of Bakiyev and former foreign minister, has declared a provisional government. But there are regional dimensions to the crisis that could influence how events unfold; Bakiyev, a southerner, was ousted by protests largely in the north of the country. There are also questions about what political accommodations can be made among the elite and what economic concessions, if any, can be made to mollify the furious Kyrgyz public.

Bakiyev, for his part, has remained defiant. "I did not and will not lay down my duties," Russia's Ria-Novosti news agency quoted Bakiyev as saying in a statement. But the president acknowledged that his influence is limited, with the Army and police apparently having abandoned him for the provisional government.

IN PICTURES: Kyrgyzstan coup

The rebellion, sparked by the tiny mountainous republic's dire economic crisis, appears to have been controlled by Kyrgyzstan's established political clans and will likely bring about a reshuffling of chairs at the top, rather than any radical change in government. Much the same occurred after the 2005 "Tulip Revolution" rode a wave of popular anger over electoral fraud and overthrew then-president Askar Akayev. Within days, a group of insiders, headed by Mr. Bakiyev, had taken full control.

Seventy-five people were killed and around 500 injured in the violent uprising that shook Bishkek on Wednesday, after apparently spontaneous protests began in the nearby city of Talas on Tuesday over spiking food prices and electricity rates spilled into the capital. Russian TV showed armed crowds, mostly comprised of young men, storming the presidential palace and parliament in the city's center. Riot troops opened fire on the protesters, causing most of the casualties, and then fled.

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