Kyrgyzstan in Chaos After Protesters Seize Government Buildings

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MOSCOW — Kyrgyzstan descended into political chaos on Tuesday after opposition groups seized control of Parliament and released their leaders from prison in protests over parliamentary elections they have denounced as rigged.

Under mounting pressure from the protesters, the country’s Central Electoral Commission annulled the results of the Sunday vote, a day after awarding the majority of seats to two political parties with ties to the president, Sooronbai Jeenbekov.

Overnight, a small group of protesters broke away from the main body and tried to gain entry to the White House, the main government building that hosts the Parliament and the presidential administration. After the police tried to disperse them, hundreds more joined in the assault and soon took control, according to photos and video footage from the scene.

On Tuesday, the streets of Bishkek were littered with burned out cars and piles of stones, while photos emerged of the broken down gates to the White House. Inside the building, videos and photos showed broken glass and piles of debris, including government papers, with protesters wandering around the offices. In the city, residents began to form volunteer brigades to deter looters.

One person was killed and at least 680 injured during the protests, the country’s Health Ministry said.

Mr. Jeenbekov’s office said on Tuesday that he was willing to meet with the leaders of all 16 parties that had competed in the election, in an effort to ease the tensions.

But it was not clear that he was still in control of the situation Tuesday morning, as protesters captured more government buildings, according to reports from local news websites, and started appointing their own government officials. The mayors of Bishkek, the capital, and the country’s second leading city, Osh, said they were resigning.

The opposition freed Mr. Jeenbekov’s predecessor, Almazbek Atambayev, who had been serving an 11-year sentence on corruption charges he had denounced as politically motivated. The opposition also freed several other prominent political figures, including two former prime ministers.

Seen as a somewhat pro-Russian figure, Mr. Atambayev had made the decision to close the American military facility in Kyrgyzstan that from 2001 to 2014 supported American military operations in Afghanistan. Under Mr. Atambayev, Kyrgyzstan became a member of the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union. Mr. Jeenbekov, his successor, also tried to maintain good relations with Moscow.

A mountainous Central Asian nation of 6.3 million, Kyrgyzstan is a former Soviet republic, next to China but strategically aligned with Russia. It has been the focus of geopolitical rivalry between Moscow, Beijing and Washington and other players since it gained independence after the Soviet collapse in 1991.

Kyrgyzstan has a long history of political strife, fueled by regional differences between the country’s north and south and pervasive clan politics. Two of its presidents have been toppled in violent revolts over the past 15 years. Unlike its neighbors, it enjoys a pluralistic system of government but one that has proved unstable in crises.

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