The Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan is divided by a popular uprising in the wake of contested elections, with the government of President Askar Akayev in control in the northern capital, Bishkek, but the southern city of Osh now in the hands of opposition protesters. Normality is starting to return to Osh following a wave of strikes and protests which culminated in the ouster of the official governor Kubanych Joldoshev and installation in power of an opposition leader, Anvar Artykov, who the central government refuses to recognize. According to Kyrgyz rights activist Aziza Abdirasulova: "There is no chaos. Under the new rules, for the first time in years people in Osh can enjoy free media. Local TV stations that had been heavily controlled by the state are now freely reporting without censorship, organising live transmissions from the main square and live talk shows." Protests continue in another southern city, Jalal-Abad, with government buildings under occupation. (IRIN, March 23)
Meanwhile, the central government says it will not rule out force to restore order. Akayev’s new Interior Minister Keneshbek Dushebayev pledged he would not allow the protest wave to spread to the capital. "We will not allow any stormings, seizures and takeovers in Bishkek," he said, but generously added that security forces would "never shoot law-abiding, peaceful citizens, women, children and old people." (CBC, March 23)
Unlike the recent uprisings in Ukrainia and Georgia, the Kyrgyz crisis is receiving little coverage from the mainstream media. Perhaps this is because both Washington and Moscow are supporting Akayev’s authoritarian regime. Russia has troops at the Kyrgyz military base in Kant, while the U.S. has forces at the Kyrgyz air base in Menas. Russian political analyst Igor Ryabov, interviewed by MoscowNews.com, said: "For many years, Akayev had friendly relations with both the United States and Russia, it was his particular skill to maneuver between the two."