Belarus leader says will not extradite Bakiyev

By Steve Gutterman and Andrei Makhovsky

MINSK (Reuters) - Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko said Tuesday he would not hand over Kyrgyzstan's ousted President Kurmanbek Bakiyev to face charges over the violent upheaval in the Central Asian nation last month.

In an interview with Reuters the same day that Kyrgyzstan's interim government ordered prosecutors to seek Bakiyev's extradition, Lukashenko said such a request would be futile.

"Nobody has appealed to me officially (with an extradition request)," Lukashenko said. "But I want to immediately declare officially: These requests will be hopeless and humiliating for the interim government."

He added: "The president of Kyrgyzstan is under the protection of the Belarussian state and its president."

Bakiyev fled to Belarus following his overthrow in April 7-8 turmoil in which least 85 people were killed.

Kyrgyzstan's interim government, made up of Bakiyev's opponents, earlier accused him of mass murder in connection with the violence in which security forces fired on protesters, some of whom were armed.

Lukashenko blamed Bakiyev's opponents for the bloodshed, defended the actions of Bakiyev's security forces and sharply criticized Russia and the West, which have engaged the interim government and promised support.

Russia and the United States both operate military air bases in Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet republic in Central Asia.

"Russia and the West create a terrible precedent when they support an illegal government that came to power through bloodshed," Lukashenko said.

Russia's support for the interim government and speculation that Moscow had a hand in Bakiyev's overthrow may have rattled Lukashenko, who has depended on Moscow's economic and political backing during his 16-year rule.

Lukashenko said that while some forces in the West and Russia would like to see him out of power, a Kyrgyz-style overthrow of his government is out of the question.

"Nobody could do such a thing in Belarus," he said.

Lukashenko, who said he had spent the whole day Sunday with Bakiyev in Belarus, suggested he was contributing to stability in Kyrgyzstan by giving Bakiyev refuge. The interim government has "1,000 problems," he said.

"The interim government of Kyrgyzstan should bow to the ground and thank me for removing the 1,001st problem," he said, referring to Bakiyev's departure from the Kyrgyz political scene. "The situation there is under very little control as it is."

(Editing by Maria Golovnina)


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