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Opposition Seizes Control of Kyrgyzstan

The protesters stormed the headquarters of the embattled president, who had reportedly already fled, in Bishkek, the capital of the former Soviet republic.

Members of the parliament that was in power before disputed elections in February met Thursday night to discuss ways of keeping the peace until new presidential elections could be held possibly as early as May or June.

Legislators in the upper house elected former opposition lawmaker Ishenbai Kadyrbekov as interim president, although the lower house had yet to approve the choice, reported the Associated Press.

Kadyrbekov, a Communist lawmaker, had been disqualified from running in the disputed elections in February and March, which helped spark the protests.

On Thursday, activists entered government buildings, throwing computers and air conditioners out of windows, and seized control of state television.

“It’s not the opposition that has seized power, it’s the people who have taken power. The people. They have been fighting for so long against corruption, against that (Akayev) family,” said opposition activist Ulan Shambetov, according to the AP.

About 30 people were reported injured in the clashes with Akayev supporters in Bishkek, a city of 800,000, according to Reuters.

The takeover of government buildings in Bishkek followed similar seizures by opposition activists in southern Kyrgyzstan, including in the second-largest city, Osh. Those protests began even before elections on Feb. 27 and a run-off on March 13, which the opposition said were seriously flawed.

The whereabouts of Akayev were unknown late Thursday. Russian news agencies said he had left the country, but U.S. officials raised doubts.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld when asked about the reports said, “The intelligence reports do not verify what you cited from press reports. I’m confident there will be no issue with respect to U.S. forces.”

The opposition has shown no signs that it would change policy toward Russia or the West, and unlike recent anti-government protests in Georgia and Ukraine, foreign policy has not been an issue.

But any change would have some impact since both the United States and Russia have cooperated with Akayev and have military bases near Bishkek. About 1,000 U.S. troops are stationed at Manas air base outside Bishkek, according to the AP.

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