Ousted Kyrgyz leader says still president
MINSK/BISHKEK (Reuters) - Kyrgyzstan's ousted leader Kurmanbek Bakiyev said on Wednesday he was still president and urged the world to shun the interim rulers struggling to restore order after an April 7 uprising.
The new leadership dismissed his statement, saying Bakiyev had signed and sealed his own resignation.
Minutes later authorities announced the arrest of a number of Bakiyev loyalists who last week seized control in his southern stronghold of Jalalabad, including self-proclaimed governor Faizulla Rakhmanov.
Bakiyev's defiance will likely aggravate the mix of lawlessness and resistance facing the interim government as it tries to stamp its authority on the Central Asian state, host to a U.S. airbase supplying operations in Afghanistan.
"I will do everything to restore constitutional order to Kyrgyzstan," Bakiyev said in the Belarussian capital Minsk, where he has sought refuge after the revolt against his five-year rule. "I don't recognize my resignation...only death can stop me."
"I call on international leaders not to recognize the authority of this illegitimate gang," Bakiyev said. Kyrgyzstan's interim government said last week Bakiyev had resigned and produced a hand-written letter that it said the president faxed from Kazakhstan, where he initially found safe haven.
It then produced the original, delivered by Kazakhstan's ambassador to Bishkek.
The Kyrgyz government says it will pursue swift reforms and hold parliamentary and presidential elections within six months. On Wednesday it said it had asked the United States for $10 million to help conduct the polls.
The United States and Russia have both engaged with the interim government and offered assistance. But the government has struggled so far to stamp its authority on the impoverished former Soviet republic of 5.3 million people.
Five people died on Monday in ethnic violence, when looters targeted ethnic Russians and Meskhetian Turks on the outskirts of the capital Bishkek, exploiting the post-uprising turbulence to demand land.
Russia said on Tuesday the country faced anarchy, and the Kremlin ordered the defense ministry to take measures to protect Russians living there.
Russia has an airbase in the country, manned by about 500 servicemen, and sent 150 paratroopers earlier in the crisis to protect personnel.
"We hope that the situation will stabilize, but it needs patience," said Edil Baisalov, a senior interim government official.
The interim leaders accuse Bakiyev of corruption and nepotism and say he must answer for the deaths of at least 85 people in the uprising, when police and troops repeatedly open fire on protesters, some armed.
"I am not evading responsibility for the catastrophe and I am ready to answer to the law," Bakiyev said, without elaborating.
(Writing by Matt Robinson; Editing by Angus MacSwan)
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