Elections promised as Bakiyev flees country

Deal brokered by US and Russia sees ousted Kyrgyz leader escape to Kazakhstan
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The Independent Online

Kyrgyzstan's ousted president fled the Central Asian country last night, in a deal brokered by Russia and the United States. Kurmanbek Bakiyev left the southern city of Jalal-Abad in a plane bound for neighbouring Kazakhstan. Officials in the country's interim government said he had signed a formal resignation letter.

Mr Bakiyev's departure may bring an end to the turmoil that has gripped the country since riots last week left 82 dead and hundreds injured. Mr Bakiyev originally left the capital, Bishkek, for his traditional stronghold in the south of the country, and a new interim administration made up of former opposition figures has taken charge. They promise to hold elections within six months.

Kazakhstan's Foreign Minister said that the deal for Mr Bakiyev to leave the country was negotiated between the US President Barack Obama, the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and the Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Mr Bakiyev had previously demanded security guarantees for himself and his family. Although his two sons are believed to be in Latvia, the interim government said Mr Bakiyev's brothers did not leave the country with him. It was searching for them last night.

Jalal-Abad airport was deserted last night, but security guards confirmed that a plane carrying the deposed president had taken off as night fell. In Mr Bakiyev's home village of Teyyit, where he had been staying, his house was cordoned off. Locals sauntered in and out of the property, and the smell of cooking wafted out, but guards would not say who was in the house or let journalists in.

Earlier in the day, what turned out to be Mr Bakiyev's final stand came in the nearby city of Osh. A motorcade of SUVs with tinted windows sped him there from Teyyit to address his supporters. But the rally on the city's main square was thwarted by supporters of the interim government, who had massed there. When a space was cleared for Mr Bakiyev in an adjacent square, men from the first rally hurled rocks. Mr Bakiyev's bodyguards fired automatic weapons in the air in an attempt to restore order, but panic ensued, and Mr Bakiyev was bundled back into his motorcade and left the city.

Mr Bakiyev later spoke to Vladimir Putin, the Russian Prime Minister, on the telephone, though what was said is not known. Mr Bakiyev had angered Russia when in power by vowing to close a US airbase in Kyrgyzstan but changing his mind. Moscow was quick to recognise the new government as legitimate and has promised aid to Kyrgyzstan.

Meanwhile, relatives of a British citizen arrested in Kyrgyzstan yesterday called on the Kyrgyz authorities to release him immediately and called on the British government to intervene.

According to his brother Azer in London, Vugar Khalilov was arrested on charges of money laundering in a hotel room on Monday evening, shortly after meeting the British Ambassador to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Mr Khalilov, of Azerbaijani descent, is a former BBC journalist who ran a PR business with clients that included Mr Bakiyev's government. He denies the charges.