Violent Protest in Kyrgyz Capital

*** President Akayev May Have Fled the Country ***

Updated Below

Protesters Storm the Ministry of Defense Building in the Capital:

Protesters stormed the presidential compound in Kyrgyzstan on Thursday, seizing control of the symbol of power after clashing with riot police who had surrounded it during a large opposition rally. The defense minister was led out of the building by demonstrators.

About 1,000 protesters managed to clear riot police from their positions outside the fence protecting the building, and about half that number entered the compound and went into the building through the front entrance. Others smashed windows with stones, while hundreds of police watched from outside the fence.

Protesters led the defense minister out of the building, holding him by the elbows and trying to protect him, but others threw stones at the military chief and one protester kicked him. Interior Ministry troops led other officials out, and three injured people left in bandages, accompanied by a doctor.

Protesters, who appeared to control the building, threw papers and portraits of President Askar Akayev out of windows. It was unclear where he was.

This is after a newly apppointed minister promised to get tough on the protesters:

Police in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek have violently broken up an anti-government demonstration of about 200 people hours after the head of city police Keneshbek Dushebayev was appointed interior minister, Reuters reports.

Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev named the hardliner to take charge of security and deal with protests after he had promised not to resort to a massive use of force against demonstrators.

In his first public comments after becoming minister, Dushebayev made clear that security forces were ready to get tough to restore order.

“The law gives us all rights needed to restore the constitutional order,” he said. “We can use force … and weapons. (But) we are not going to shoot at law-abiding citizens, women, old people and children.”

Russia Tightens Control of Air Base:

The command of the Russian airbase in Kyrgyzstan’s Kant took a number of measures to tighten security on Thursday, Russian Air Force spokesman Col. Alexander Drobyshevsky told Interfax.

“In connection with the latest events in Bishkek, the airbase command limited leaves for officers, NCOs, and soldiers. Draft soldiers will be denied leave passes for some time,” Drobyshevsky said.

“No incidents have been recorded around the airbase and the garrison. The situation surrounding the Russian airbase in Kyrgyzstan remains stable on the whole,” he said.

For more information on Kyrgyzstan- Publius Pundit, Registan.net and Ben Paarmann have been doing an excellent job with keeping current on all of the news.

Update: (7:00 AM) Instapundit continues to link to this latest protest news . He has been following closely the situation in Central Asia.

Update 2: (7:45 AM) This just in…

Kyrgyzstan President Leaves Country!

Embattled President Askar Akayev and his family left Kyrgyzstan’s capital by helicopter Thursday evening, heading toward Kazakhstan, the Interfax news agency said, citing unspecified sources.

The report, which could not immediately be confirmed, came hours after protesters seized government headquarters in Bishkek and claimed control of state broadcasting facilities.

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