Appearing to bring an end to nearly week-long protests, nationalist activists in south Kyrgyzstan unblocked the main north-south highway and vacated administrative buildings in the city of Jalal-Abad late on June 5. However, police in the region remain on high alert.
The six-day protest was called off after Prime Minister Zhantoro Satybaldiyev met with residents in Jalal-Abad. The lifting of the blockade of the Bishkek-Osh highway also followed the release from police detention of Meder Usenov, who had declared himself ruler of the region as the protests sparked off on May 31.
The events in the south had kicked off in solidarity with demonstrators at the Kumtor gold mine in the north of the country. However, while the Kumtor protests were broken up on May 31, the unrest has continued in Jalal-Abad, a major centre of Kyrgyzstan's nationalist opposition.
In addition to calling for Kumtor to be nationalised, Jalal-Abad protesters invaded the city's administrative buildings and appointed Usenov as governor, who was promptly arrested. His release, plus that of three Ata-Zhurt party leaders - Kamchibek Tashiyev, Sapar Zhaparov and Talant Mamytov - jailed earlier this year, were added to the protesters' demands.
Speaking with activists on June 5, Satybaldiyev appealed to them to wait for a court decision on appeals by Tashiyev, Zhaparov and Mamytov. The trio was each sentenced to up to 18 months in prison in May, after being found guilty of attempting to overthrow the government.
While the protests have now been called off, law enforcement agencies in Kyrgyzstan's volatile south remain on high alert. Authorities in Osh - the region's largest city - as well as Jalal-Abad, say they remain in "emergency mode".
Large-scale ethnic violence broke out between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in the region in June 2010, with at least 400 people, mainly ethnic Uzbeks, killed. International reports on the violence have criticised law enforcement agencies for failing to prevent the violence.
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