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People in Kyrgyzstan Mourn Those Killed in Protests

Baylen Forcier, via Skype
Baylen Forcier, via Skype

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Residents of Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan's capital, gathered Friday to mourn some 75 people killed in an uprising against the government.  The opposition leader has named herself interim president, but the current president refuses to step down.  VOA's Carolyn Presutti brings us exclusive pictures from Bishtek, along with words from an American living there.

These are the streets of Bishkek, as seen through the lens of an American who lives there.  Baylen Forcier provided these exclusive pictures to the Voice of America.

Here are the scorched walls of Kryrgyzstan's presidential palace.  And, flowers for the more than 75 killed in the political protests on Wednesday.   

This was once the general prosecutor's office, now smoldering.  

The drujniki - common people - march in the streets now, to stop looting and restore calm to the nation's capital.

Forcier spoke to us from Bishkek via skype. "It's just amazing how you walk by something everyday and all of a sudden it's gone. In a matter of two days, the government is overthrown and Biskek has definitely changed physically.," he said.

At a memorial service in the same square where many died, anger at President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who fled the capital.

The protests have now moved to southern Kyrgyzstan, Mr. Bakiyev's stronghold. The president says he will not step down. "Nine months ago, 80 percent of the people, the population, voted for me and things cannot change so quickly," he said.

Opposition leader Rosa Otenbayeva said her government will guarantee his safety if he resigns. "We will have no negotiations on this matter.  The death of 75 people is the answer to any of his attempts to come back."

Otunbayeva has said the U.S. airbase in Kyrgyzstan will remain open.

The base supports NATO efforts in Afghanistan.

Ravshan Djeyenbekov helped get Mr.Bakiyev elected, and then joined an opposition party. He says the base is in jeopardy, given the opposition group's close ties to Russia. "One of the main conditions to get money from Russia will be the American military base," he said.

For now, residents and Westerners too are not clear who is in charge.

VOA-TV Correspondent Carolyn Presutti did a Skype interview with American Baylen Forcier, who lives in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. The interview was done Thursday, April 8. This was one day after the violent protests that left at least 75 dead and hundreds injured. Earlier Thursday Forcier spent four hours outside, walking on the streets of Bishkek and relates what he saw there to Presutti.


Carolyn Presutti

Carolyn Presutti is an award-winning television reporter who works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters.  She has won an Emmy, many Associated Press awards, and a Clarion for her coverage of Haiti,  national politics, the southern economy, and the 9/11 bombing anniversary.  In 2013, Carolyn aired exclusive stories on the Syrian medical crisis and the Asiana plane crash, and was VOA’s chief reporter from the Boston Marathon bombing.

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