Kyrgyzstan upset with Belarus

STATE PROTECTION: The interim Kyrgyz leader said ousted president Bakiyev must be handed over, adding that if that did not happen, the nation could call on Interpol


Kyrgyzstan's interim leader has condemned Belarus' decision to provide refuge to ousted Kyrgyz president Kurmanbek Bakiyev, calling him a "criminal" and demanding his extradition.

"Kyrgyzstan's people may not react positively to Belarus taking in such a man, who has the lives of many people on his conscience," interim government leader Roza Otunbayeva told reporters late on Tuesday.

"This criminal must be handed over back to our country. If that does not happen, there is Interpol," said Otunbayeva, whose -interim government took power two weeks ago after the popular uprising which ousted Bakiyev.

Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko confirmed on Tuesday that Bakiyev was in Belarus, ending days of uncertainty over the toppled leader's whereabouts.

Bakiyev and several members of his family had arrived in Minsk and were "under the protection of our state and personally of the president," Lukashenko told the Belarussian parliament.

The ousted Kyrgyz leader was flown to Belarus by Lukashenko's own personal security service, the head of the service, Andrei -Vtyurin, told the Interfax news agency yesterday.

"We should give special thanks to the pilots for landing the plane in severe weather conditions, when the airport was practically closed in connection with the volcanic cloud covering the territory of Belarus," Vtyurin said.

Lukashenko, a strongman leader who has ruled Belarus since 1994 and is often criticized in the West for tolerating no dissent, had voiced anger at the uprising which overthrew Bakiyev.

Bakiyev left Kyrgyzstan last week for Kazakhstan. The Kazakh foreign ministry said Monday that he had left, without specifying his destination.

The Kyrgyz interim government wants to put Bakiyev on trial for the shooting of demonstrators during the popular uprising that led to his overthrow, in which 85 people were killed.

Meanwhile, Otunbayeva warned looters and armed assailants that police would use deadly force against them, following ethnic riots near Bishkek that killed five people earlier this week.

"In accordance with law, law enforcement officials will use deadly force in case of armed assaults against civilians, their homes and private property, attempts on their health and life, as well as attacks on civilian and military objects," she said.

The interim government has struggled to impose order in recent days as mobs of angry, impoverished people have descended on the Kyrgyz capital to demand plots of land. On Monday, five people were killed when a huge mob surged into the village of Mayevka, just outside Bishkek and attempted to seize land from ethnic Russian and Turkish residents.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev ordered his defense minister to take steps to guarantee the safety of Russian citizens in Kyrgyzstan following the attempted land grabs.

EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said Tuesday the EU was ready to offer the interim Kyrgyz government political and financial help if it embraced democracy.


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