Protesters seize control of Kyrgyzstan’s government and release a jailed former president on Tuesday. Demonstrations against the election, which was marred by vote-buying allegations, led to violent clashes with police.
Supporters of the opposition took to the streets of the capital, Bishkek, earlier in the evening, demanding the resignation of pro-Russian President Tsvangirai Zinbekov and the resumption of Sunday’s polls.
Police used water cannon, stun grenades and tear gas to disperse protesters trying to force their way through the gates of the building that houses the parliament and presidential offices of the former Soviet Republic.
Photos published by Radio Free Europe later showed protesters circling the building.
About 2,000 people were forced into a nearby National Security Committee building, where former President Almazbek Atambayev was imprisoned.
Adil Turdukov, an activist and friend of Atambayev who testified for the release, said the former leader had been released “without force or use of weapons” and that national security officials had not tried to stop the protesters.
“They surrendered,” he added.
Footage posted on social media, Atambayev, 64, greeted supporters after he was released from prison, where he is serving an 11-year sentence for his role in the illegal release of a mob boss.
Following Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford footage from last night, there was a lot of “joy mixed with uncertainty”.
“As you can see, there is a feeling – and all the evidence suggests – that no one is really in power, especially when you see the former president and former prime minister being liberated,” Bishkek said.
In a speech on Tuesday, Zhenbekov stressed that peace and security are of paramount importance to the country.
“He wants all party leaders to pacify their supporters and go home,” Stratford said. “He is asking the country to ‘keep the peace’ and reject all dominant forces.”
Atambayev was once close to his successor, Jean-Bekov, but the couple fell shortly after the 61-year-old won the country’s last presidential election in 2017.
The two are seen as Russia’s loyal allies, and their strategic position in the country has not been affected despite the unrest.
– Muqahid Durmaj (uc Muqahid Durmaj) October 5, 2020
Russian leader Vladimir Putin tried to broker a peace between the couple last year but could not prevent Atambayev’s arrest.
Clashes throughout the night
The two parties that ended the poll on Sunday are in support of the current president and are hostile to his predecessor.
But both were seen by rival parties coordinating a massive vote-buying campaign.
Clashes erupted on Monday after the losing parties initially held a peaceful rally.
On Monday evening, the main government building known as the White House tried to force the police tried to disperse the protesters.
At one point Radio Free Europe live feed police showed protesters throwing grenades while struggling to push back, setting fire to several bins in a fierce gruesome exchange.
Health officials said at least 120 people were being treated for injuries, but no deaths were reported by the end of Monday.
Opposition groups called for a re-election on Sunday, calling for “credible allegations” of vote-rigging by the International Monitoring Mission in Europe, an organization for security and co-operation.
The preliminary count includes two pro-presidential parties, Birmidik and McKenzie Kyrgyzstan, both in favor of deeper integration with Moscow, together with half the votes.
Birimdik, which includes the president’s younger brother Asylbek Jeenbekov, said it was open to a re-run of the vote on Monday, but by that time police were already struggling to bring protesters under control.
Opposition parties earlier distanced themselves from the first attempt to storm the government complex.
Ata-Meken member Elvira Surabaldiyeva told AFP news agency her party had no role in the incident, which she blamed on “provocateurs”.
But she added that her party would “stand with the people to the end”.
Mobile phone and mobile internet connections were poor or non-existent as the night unfolded.
Eyewitnesses told AFP that shopkeepers in the vicinity of the protest began to remove the loot and remove items from their stores.
Exploitation was a feature of the two popular uprisings that toppled the presidents of power in 2005 and 2010, but the former Soviet nation has been relatively stable for the past decade.
Dissatisfaction with corruption and the dominance of powerful clan politics increased with the economic challenges of the fall of the coronavirus.
Thousands rallied in Central Bishkek on Monday to protest the latest vote results.
Popular singers joined the audience with politicians, who responded with the slogan “Jeanbekov out”.
“The president has promised to oversee honest elections. He has not kept his word,” opposition candidate Riskeldi Mombekov told protesters.