Kyrgyzstan’s ousted president Kurmanbek Bakiyev made his first public appearance on Monday since being toppled in a popular uprising, slamming his opponents and refusing to step down.
Bakiyev, who fled the capital Bishkek last week amid protests against his rule that left at least 81 people dead, addressed a crowd of thousands of supporters in his home village of Teyit in southern Kyrgyzstan.
He was greeted near his family home by throngs of supporters cheering his name, an AFP correspondent reported.
Speaking from the steps of the local mayor’s office, Bakiyev insisted that he remained the legitimate president of the former Soviet state and accused the interim government of being “natural gangsters”.
“I had some reasons for hiding. As you know, power was seized by force. It began first in (the northwestern city of) Talas and all the blame was put on my shoulders,” he told the cheering crowd.
“I am the president, and no one has the right or the authority to make me leave my position. This is not a revolution, this is a seizure of power.”
Bakiyev also repeated his call for the United Nations to send a contingent of peacekeepers to held prevent further bloodshed in the impoverished Central Asian state.
It was his first public appearance since fleeing the capital on April 7. The interim government formed by ex-foreign minister Roza Otunbayeva has demanded he resign and accused him of attempting to foment civil war.
Almazbek Atambayev, first deputy head of the interim government, told reporters in the capital Bishkek that the government was preparing to arrest the ousted leader but was holding off to avoid civilian casualties.
Atambayev accused Bakiyev of surrounding himself with local residents in an attempt to discourage government forces from seizing him.