Belarus leader says will not extradite Bakiyev

Tue May 4, 2010 2:45pm EDT
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By Steve Gutterman and Andrei Makhovsky

MINSK (Reuters) - Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko said Tuesday he would not hand over Kyrgyzstan's ousted President Kurmanbek Bakiyev to face charges over the violent upheaval in the Central Asian nation last month.

In an interview with Reuters the same day that Kyrgyzstan's interim government ordered prosecutors to seek Bakiyev's extradition, Lukashenko said such a request would be futile.

"Nobody has appealed to me officially (with an extradition request)," Lukashenko said. "But I want to immediately declare officially: These requests will be hopeless and humiliating for the interim government."

He added: "The president of Kyrgyzstan is under the protection of the Belarussian state and its president."

Bakiyev fled to Belarus following his overthrow in April 7-8 turmoil in which least 85 people were killed.

Kyrgyzstan's interim government, made up of Bakiyev's opponents, earlier accused him of mass murder in connection with the violence in which security forces fired on protesters, some of whom were armed.

Lukashenko blamed Bakiyev's opponents for the bloodshed, defended the actions of Bakiyev's security forces and sharply criticized Russia and the West, which have engaged the interim government and promised support.

Russia and the United States both operate military air bases in Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet republic in Central Asia.   Continued...

<p>Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko (L) speaks with his Kyrgyz counterpart Kurmanbek Bakiyev at a summit of ex-Soviet leaders in Bishkek October 10, 2008 file photo. REUTERS/Vladimir Pirogov</p>