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    Kyrgyzstan marks 15th anniversary of independence

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    President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who was elected for a five-year term last July, opened the day with an address to the people on the central square of the capital, Bishkek.

    BISHKEK, August 31 (RIA Novosti) - Kyrgyzstan will host a series of events throughout the country Thursday to mark the 15th anniversary of its independence from the Soviet Union.

    President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who was elected for a five-year term last July, opened the day with an address to the people on the central square of the capital, Bishkek.

    He said the Central Asian country had experienced difficult times in the decade and a half of its independence - he came to power in popular spring protests that became known as the "tulip revolution" - but he added that the nation had "preserved the country's integrity and unity of the people."

    He also said that a new generation would enter politics in five years' time and would be one that grew up in an independent country.

    The celebrations will be held amid continuing instability in the country, one of the poorest former Soviet republics, which has seen sections of the 5 million population protest in recent months against the failure of Bakiyev and his prime minister, Felix Kulov, to bring a promised raise in living standards and an end to corruption.

    Although it joined the World Trade Organization in 1998, Kyrgyzstan's lack of natural resources has seen it miss out on the boom times that some other former Soviet nations have enjoyed. Killings of politicians and gangsters have also done little to improve the situation.

    The president's address will be followed with a performance and a parade of athletes involving 400 people. More than 25,000 Kyrgyz will then gather in front of the government building for a celebratory procession.

    The festivities will continue with an ethnic music and dance concert for five hours on the central square, Ala-Too, and a fair exhibition on the Old Square in front of parliament.

    The Bishkek hippodrome will host national equestrian events and the day will end with fireworks at 10:00 p.m. (4:00 p.m. GMT).

    Parades and other events will also be held in other cities of the country, which borders on former Soviet stable mates, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan, as well as China.

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