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Russia warns Kyrgyzstan could implode after vote

world Updated: Jun 28, 2010 08:03 IST

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned on Sunday that Kyrgyzstan could collapse and that a vote aimed at establishing parliamentary democracy could allow extremists to take power in the former Soviet republic.

Kyrgyzstan voted on Sunday in a landmark referendum aimed at creating Central Asia's first parliamentary democracy, only two weeks after an explosion of ethnic bloodshed killed hundreds. The country's leader said voters approved the change.

Medvedev said Kyrgyzstan was Russia's strategic partner. But his remarks, just hours after Kyrgyz leader Roza Otunbayeva said the referendum placed her country on the path to democracy, contrasted with the strong support Kyrgyzstan's new government received from Moscow after a revolt in April.

Speaking after a Group of 20 summit in Toronto, Medvedev said Kyrgyzstan had to make its own choice about which political system it chose. The country previously had a presidential system.

But he warned that the authorities in Bishkek were unable to ensure order in the country, which hosts US and Russian military bases.

"Taking into account the fact that even now the authorities are unable to impose order, that the legitimacy of the authorities is low and its support creates a host of questions, I do not really understand how a parliamentary republic would look and work in Kyrgyzstan," he said.

"Will this not lead to a chain of eternal problems -- to reshuffles in parliament, to the rise to power of this or that political group, to authority being passed constantly from one hand to another, and, finally, will this not help those with extremist views to power?" he said. "This concerns me."

Otunbayeva, a former ambassador to the United States and Britain, claimed power after overthrowing former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, although the new government has struggled to gain control of the south, Bakiyev's family stronghold.

At least 283 people, and possibly hundreds more, died this month in violence between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in southern Kyrgyzstan. Russia has refused repeated requests from Bishkek to send peacekeepers to halt the violence.

"In its current state, there are a host of scenarios for Kyrgyzstan, including the most unpleasant scenario -- going up to the collapse of the state," Medvedev said.

"To prevent such a scenario, it needs to have strong and well-organized authorities," he said.

Russia, the United States and China are the major powers in Central Asia and Medvedev said he had briefed world leaders at meetings in Toronto about the situation in Kyrgyzstan.