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Kyrgyzstan mulls Bakiyev extradition request

BISHKEK (Reuters) - Kyrgyzstan’s interim government said Monday it was considering an extradition request for its ousted president, after Russian security forces detained and sent home the country’s former top police official.

Belarus took in President Kurmanbek Bakiyev last week after he fled in the aftermath of a bloody revolt. Moscow made clear he was not welcome in Russia.

The interim government’s chief of administration Emil Kaptagayev told Reuters a request for Bakiyev’s extradition was possible “on the grounds that there are existing crimes he must answer for,” such as opening fire on demonstrators and crimes “of an economic nature.”

Interfax news agency, citing unnamed officials, said the interim government had passed a decree formally seeking his extradition, though Kaptagayev would not confirm this. He said a decree was passed removing Bakiyev’s presidential immunity.

The extradition of former interior minister Moldomusa Kongantiyev Monday signals strong Russian support for the new administration that came to power in Bishkek after the uprising that started on April 7.

“MOSCOW ROLE”

Bakiyev has maintained Moscow may have played a role in his overthrow. Troops loyal to him shot into crowds of protesters on the night of April 7-8. Some protesters were armed and fought back, and at least 85 people were killed.

Kongantiyev -- who had been beaten during protests on April 8 and forced to shout “Down with Bakiyev!” -- was detained on Sunday in Russia and sent to Bishkek, a spokesman for Kyrgyzstan’s National Security Service said Monday.

“We have him in a pre-trial detention center,” he said.

Officials did not say where Kongantiyev had been detained but Russian media said he had been found in Moscow.

The interim government’s chief of staff Edil Baisalov confirmed Kongantiyev had been detained by Russian security forces and sent overnight by plane to Bishkek.

He said Kongantiyev was under arrest and was being investigated for his role in the deadly upheaval earlier this month, among other things.

The unrest disrupted flights through a U.S. air base that supports operations in Afghanistan and adds to the strategic significance of the impoverished ex-Soviet state.

Kyrgyzstan’s new rulers have struggled to stamp their authority on the predominantly Muslim nation of 5.3 million as rival clans and ethnic groups vie for influence.

Russia has offered Kyrgyzstan financial aid, and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin expressed support for the interim government as he met its leader, Rosa Otunbayeva, in Bishkek Monday. “Russia is ready to help,” Karasin said.

The United States, eager to keep its lease on the Manas air base and maintain influence in central Asia, has also offered support for the interim government, which is planning to hold elections in October.

Writing by Conor Sweeney and Amie Ferris-Rotman; editing by Andrew Roche

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