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BISHKEK — Reuters – Kyrgyzstani police on Thursday arrested three members of parliament who had led a crowd that tried to storm government headquarters in a protest over a Canadian-owned gold mine, Centerra Gold.
Wednesday’s clashes between police and supporters of the opposition Ata Zhurt party in the former Soviet republic were the most violent in the capital, Bishkek, since the April, 2010, revolt that ousted then-president Kurmanbek Bakiyev.
The protesters want the mine, crucial to Kyrgyzstan’s fragile economy, to be nationalized. The three parliamentarians – Kamchibek Tashiyev, Sadyr Zhaparov and Talant Mamytov – are being held on suspicion of trying to seize power. Prosecutors have 48 hours to decide whether to charge them.
On Thursday, about 1,000 supporters rallied in the main square of the southern city of Jalalabad, their power base, to demand their release. There was no violence. “Parliament, the President, the government should resign because they are not resolving the Kumtor issue,” one demonstrator shouted through a megaphone.
The attempted storming of Kyrgyzstan’s “White House” rekindled north-south tension in the Central Asian country of 5 1/2 million people, which borders China and has U.S. and Russian military air bases.
Two presidents of Kyrgyzstan have been toppled since 2005 after attacks on the same government building. Though Bishkek was quiet on Thursday, authorities were alert for protests spreading in the country’s poorer, more nationalist south.
Russia voiced concern about the unrest in Kyrgyzstan, its partner in a regional security alliance, saying grievances should not be resolved by force. It said unspecified measures had been taken to ensure the security of its diplomats.
“Proceeding from our interest in the preservation of political stability in this friendly country, we consider it important for all issues … to be resolved within the law,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said.
Wednesday’s protest began as a peaceful rally in favour of nationalizing the Kumtor mine, owned by Canada’s Centerra Gold. The Kyrgyzstani state itself is a 33-per-cent shareholder in Centerra under a Bakiyev-era contract drawn up in 2009.
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