In Kyrgyzstan, at least 23 protesters have been arrested after riots broke out on Monday. At the height of the violence, the province’s governor, Emil Kaptagaev, was held captive for several hours before he was released.
The protests started when a Canadian-owned mining operation signed an agreement with the Kyrgyzstan government. Some have suggested that the protests are not a mass movement, but rather a criminal group hired by local politicians in order to extort money from the Canadian firm.
This is a translation from one of the initial reports that ran yesterday on the pro-Kremlin ITAR-TASS. – Ed.
In Kyrgyzstan, the protesters forced the authorities to put them on air
The participants of a rally that continues in Karakol, the administrative center of the Issyk-Kul region of Kyrgyzstan, forced the management of the local TV station to let them go on air. This is what the Kyrgyz law enforcement source told the ITAR-TASS correspondent.
“The management of the regional TV station had to make concessions,” said the source. According to him, now “the technical issues are being resolved,” and in the next few hours the protesters “will speak live.”
On Monday, according to different estimates, from 150 to 1,000 people gathered at the central square of Karakol. They demanded that the authorities denounced an agreement with a Canadian company Centerra Gold, that is developing the Kumtor gold mine located in the IssykKul region. Another demand is the resignation of the government.
During the rally, the crowd tried to break into the building of the regional administration , but the assault was foiled by the police. Then the protesters took hostage Emilbek Kaptagaev, the authorized representative of the Government in the Issyk-Kul region, who stepped out to negotiate.
The confrontation drags along
In the second half of the day, several busloads of special police were brought to Karakol from Bishkek. By nightfall, the police stepped up security at strategically important municipal sites. The deputy heads of the Interior Ministry who arrived at the scene tried to persuade the protesters to disperse, and the protesters declared that they would never leave the area until their demands are met.
The Interior Ministry of Kyrgyzstan continues to assure that the situation in Karakol is under control, however banks and shops in the central part of the city started to close down. The ministry does not rule out the possibility of using force to release Kaptagaev in case some “aggressive actions” are taken against him.
A few days ago, the company and the Kyrgyz government signed a memorandum under which the parties will establish a joint venture and will equally share the profits from the development of Kumtor. Authorities believe that 4 years ago the previous management of the company signed a disadvantageous agreement with Canadians, and thus caused damage to the state. But protesters in Karakol believe that this time around the agreement on Kumtor also runs contrary to the interests of the people.
The operations of Centerra Gold – the largest gold mining company operating in Central Asia – have often triggered protests. In 2012, because of various protest rallies related to the mine, the company’s shares on the world market fell, and the Kyrgyz budget has lost more than $100 million in revenues.