(Reuters) - Kyrgyz riot police fired tear gas and flash grenades to disperse protesters in the capital Bishkek on Wednesday, witnesses said, the second day of unrest linked to mounting public anger over a weaker economy and corruption.
Below are some key facts about Kyrgyzstan:
THE ECONOMY AND GROWING UNREST
* Kyrgyzstan’s economy grew by 2.3 percent in 2009, down from 8.4 percent a year earlier, as the impoverished Central Asian state was hit by the global crisis.
* Kyrgyz migrant laborers, working mostly in Russia, used to be one of the key sources of the country’s foreign currency revenues. But Russia’s own woes have left many of them unemployed or doing jobs that pay less.
* Last month Kyrgyzstan marked five years since a violent revolt when protesters stormed the presidential headquarters in the capital Bishkek and brought Bakiyev to power.
* With public discontent growing, Bakiyev has been accused of failing to rein in corruption and shield the country’s population from growing poverty. Over the past months, international rights groups have accused the authorities of cracking down on dissenting voices.
* On a visit to the country this month, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Kyrgyzstan to protect human rights after protesters shouted “help us” as he drove to the Central Asian state’s parliament.
RELATIONS WITH THE UNITED STATES
* Kyrgyzstan was the target of cross-border raids by Islamic guerrillas in 1999 and 2000. It embraced Washington’s campaign to root out Afghanistan’s Taliban and invited U.S. forces to launch operations from its territory.
* Kyrgyzstan hosts both a Russian and U.S. military airbase. U.S. forces set up their base in Kyrgyzstan when they overthrew the Taliban government in Afghanistan late in 2001 and used the Manas base to support operations in Afghanistan.
* Kyrgyzstan’s parliament voted in February 2009 to approve the closure of the U.S. base after securing pledges of $2 billion in aid and credit from Russia. Washington later agreed to pay $180 million to Kyrgyzstan to keep the base open.
* U.S. General David Petraeus met leaders in Kyrgyzstan last month, a day after the United States said it would build an anti-terrorism center there. The visit by Petraeus was likely to irritate Moscow which has seen Kyrgyzstan as part of its sphere of influence. The presence of the two bases has come to symbolize Russia-U.S. rivalry in the region.
* Kyrgyzstan is a mountainous, landlocked ex-Soviet republic bordering China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
* Most of its 5.5 million people are Turkic-speaking Muslims who have lived in poverty since the economy collapsed in the 1990s.
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