BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan – Kyrgyzstan's parliament Saturday scheduled a June presidential election to replace longtime leader Askar Akayev (search), who took refuge in Moscow after opposition protesters seized government headquarters. The opposition leader who assumed power said he plans to run in that vote.
The new Kyrgyz leadership also said it had no plans to extradite Akayev, saying he could stay in Russia if he wanted to. But acting President Kurmanbek Bakiyev (search) also told Associated Press Television News that Akayev could return to the country and would be treated "in accordance with the constitution" if he did. He did not elaborate.
Felix Kulov (search), in charge of law enforcement, said on Kyrgyz television that the new leadership would not seek "vengeance" against former officials, and he saw no evidence that Akayev should face impeachment proceedings on charges of treason or grave crimes against the people.
A semblance of calm returned to the capital, Bishkek (search), after two nights of looting and sporadic gunfire that followed Akayev's ouster, while rival lawmakers struggled for legitimacy in the wake of the opposition takeover of this Central Asian nation.
Iskander Shamshiyev, an opposition leader whose organization has been working with police to restore order, said three looters were killed overnight and there were a number of clashes.
But Interior Ministry spokesman Nurdin Jangarayev made no mention of bloodshed.
"Everything was normal last night — better than the previous night. We were working with volunteers all night. We have calmed the people down," he said.
The parliament set June 26 as the date for presidential elections, but it was unclear whether new parliamentary elections would be held. Results of this year's disputed Feb. 27 parliamentary elections and March 13 runoff, which the opposition and the United States said were seriously flawed, triggered the opposition push for Akayev's ouster.
The Supreme Court annulled the results of those parliamentary elections after Thursday's opposition takeover. The previous parliament has been declared still valid, but members of the recently elected body also have been meeting.
Former opposition leaders now in power have suggested a new legislative vote would be held sometime after a presidential election.
"I think I should run in the presidential elections. God willing, I will," said Bakiyev, who was appointed acting president and prime minister after the lightning-fast changes of Thursday.
Bakiyev told Associated Press Television News on Saturday that Russian President Vladimir Putin called him Friday night and asked in an "amicable conversation" how Russia could help the people of Kyrgyzstan.
The Kremlin confirmed Saturday that Akayev was in Russia, but a spokesman refused to elaborate. The Russian news agency Interfax, citing unspecified sources, said Akayev arrived in Moscow late Friday.
Akayev apparently has not resigned, and the legitimacy of the new leaders in power in Kyrgyzstan remains unclear.
Akayev's departure made Kyrgyzstan the third former Soviet republic in the past 18 months — after Georgia and Ukraine — to see protests bring down long-entrenched leaders widely accused of corruption. The 60-year-old Akayev had led Kyrgyzstan since 1990, before it gained independence in the Soviet collapse.
An e-mailed statement purportedly from Akayev said he gave orders not to use force during the uprising, ignoring the advice of his aides, and that he left the country to avoid bloodshed. The sender was listed as the Kyrgyz presidential press service.
"An unconstitutional coup d'etat has been staged in Kyrgyzstan," the statement said. "My current stay outside the country is temporary. Rumors of my resignation are deliberate, malicious lies."
Akayev's spokesman, Dosali Esenaliyev, said he did not know of the statement's existence, and its authenticity could not be determined.
Akayev's wife, Mairam, confirmed that her husband fled Bishkek as protesters began to storm the government building, Russia's Rossiyskaya Gazeta reported. The newspaper, which did not say where she was, quoted her as saying that Akayev left "by agreement with the European community," but she did not elaborate.
Overnight Friday, mobs of youths roamed the rain-slicked streets of the Kyrgyz capital, wielding sticks and throwing stones at cars after dark, with streetlights shut off and most civilians staying at home.
Helmeted police in bulletproof vests chased the rowdy crowds and fired shots in the air, and volunteers for the interim government helped in efforts to restore order — a major test of the former opposition leaders now in charge.
Felix Kulov, an opposition leader released from prison Thursday and appointed to coordinate law enforcement, thanked police and security officers and the 2,000 volunteers he said helped restore order.
"With your help, the situation changed sharply, and there will be no repeat" of the disorder, he said on state television.
On Saturday, the two competing national legislatures jockeyed for authority.
In the Parliament building, members of the legislature who served before the disputed elections met in one room, while politicians elected in the recent voting gathered in another.
The Supreme Court declared the recent elections invalid, but the winners challenged the authority of the restored legislature.
"Our opinion is that we should be the legitimate lawmakers, because the people have chosen us," said Roman Shin, elected in the annulled voting. He said the former lawmakers who have returned to parliament "don't want to abandon power."
Shin claimed the recently elected legislature has more support than the previous parliament or the opposition leaders now running the country.
"The revolution was made by 5,000 people," he said, referring to the swelling crowd that gathered outside the presidential and government headquarters Thursday before some of its members stormed the building and took it over.
He said the recently elected lawmakers "could gather at least 25,000" people, but he added that they had no plans to seek to call in crowds to challenge the parliament or interim government.
The lawmakers from the previous parliament's upper house elected a speaker and discussed whether to legitimize Bakiyev's position by making him prime minister instead of just acting prime minister.