Government and opposition in the ex-Soviet Central Asian state of Kyrgyzstan agreed to start talks after a day of clashes in the capital Bishkek in which at least 17 people died, a Kyrgyz governmental official said on Wednesday.
"Preliminary consultations between the official authorities and oppositional leaders on halting the clashes have started," Elmurza Satybaldiyev, the state advisor on defense and security told Kyrgyz news agency 24.
"We have received several proposals [for talks]. The opposition leaders are now getting together to discuss the possibility of negotiations," the leader of an oppositional party Ak-Shumkar, Temir Sariyev, told journalists.
In spite of forthcoming negotiations, rioters stormed the Kyrgyz parliament in Bishkek. Among them is opposition leader and former parliament speaker Omurbek Tekebaev, who was detained earlier by authorities and released on Wednesday.
At least 17 people have died and another 197 are injured in ongoing riots on, Kabar local news agency said quoting medical officials.
However Kyrgyz opposition member Talay Efenaliyev told Ekho Moskvy radio station on Wednesday that at least 50 people have been killed in the riots, most of them young.
Most of the victims died of gunshot wounds, the agency said quoting the Kyrgyz health ministry. But as yet there is no official confirmation of the number of causalities. Other local media said 21 people were killed, but did not give source for their figure.
The office of the Attorney General in Bishkek has been set on fire.
Rioters near the government headquarters have got hold of an armed vehicle and may storm the government headquarters, Kabar news agency said.
President Bakiyev has declared a state of emergency and the Kyrgyz parliament has urged citizens to be reasonable and condemned the destructive activities, Kabar said.
Most of the opposition leaders, detained earlier during riots in the country's northwestern town of Talas have been released, a human rights activist said.
Kyrgyz protesters have seized the building of the state television channel KTR in the capital, Bishkek. Broadcasting was interrupted for approximately one hour, but since then Kyrgyz opposition representatives and human rights activists have appeared on the TV channel.
State TV employees told RIA Novosti that protesters seized the building, which had been ransacked. They said some staff had escaped but others were trapped inside.
Some reports say that protesters have also seized government buildings in the Chuysk, Narynsk and Issyk-Kul regions.
Police estimated there were several thousand protesters on the streets of the capital. Some attempted to ram the fence surrounding the government building using riot police vehicles while others drove around in a bus and a Red Cross vehicle with the windows knocked out.
Russia called for the authorities and protesters in Kyrgyzstan to avoid violence.
"As we are interested in preserving political stability in a country that is friendly to us, we consider it important to resolve the issues raised by the current situation by legal means," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said, adding that Russia urged both sides to avoid violence and bloodshed.
Kyrgyz Prime Minister Daniyar Usenov said he was disappointed with the way the Russian media has covered the political unrest in the country and officially complained to the Russian ambassador.
According to a Russian diplomat in Bishkek, the ambassador rejected the prime minister's complaint.
A Russian deputy foreign minister said the Foreign Ministry opposes recent falsifications in the media which try to link the ongoing unrest in Kyrgyzstan with a certain Russian stance.
Major political unrest started in Kyrgyzstan last month, with opposition forces accusing the government of tightening its grip on power while failing to bring stability and economic growth.
The situation escalated on Tuesday, when several opposition leaders were arrested after police and activists clashed in the western city of Talas, and the unrest spread on Wednesday to the central town of Naryn and Tokmak, 50 kilometers east of Bishkek.
At a news conference in Bishkek on Wednesday, Usenov called the protests in Talas, where protesters seized the regional administration building, a crime against the state.
"We are not talking about opposition's protest actions but about committing state crimes," the prime minister said, adding that Kyrgyz Interior Minister Moldomusa Kongadiev arrived in Talas on Wednesday morning and additional police forces had been sent to the city.
Activists in Naryn said several thousand people rallied in front of the local governmental building.
Adilet Eshenov said the protesters had entered the building and held talks with the governor. He added that the police had not tried to stop the demonstrators.
The Kyrgyz Interior Ministry denied the government building in Naryn had been occupied, but confirmed there were protests in the city.
"There is no seizure. An unauthorized rally is being held in front of the regional administration building, attended by 1,200-1,300 people. There have been no public order arrests," a spokesperson told RIA Novosti.
Witnesses said protesters in Tokmok seized a Chuysk regional governmental building and some police officers had been injured.
Almazbek Atambayev, the former prime minister and current leader of the Social Democratic Party, was detained at his home on Tuesday evening. A journalist and a cameraman of the local television company StanTV, who were interviewing the politician when police arrived, were also detained. They were later released, but the camera was seized.
Kyrgyzstan, where Russia and the United States both have military bases, has been unstable since President Kurmanbek Bakiyev came to power after the so-called tulip revolution, toppling his long-serving predecessor Askar Akayev in 2005.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited the country last week as part of a tour of former Soviet Central Asia and called on the authorities to do more to protect human rights and press freedom.
BISHKEK, April 7 (RIA Novosti)