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Will Kyrgyzstan's protests follow Ukraine's lead?

Unlike in the 'Orange Revolution,' violence has marred rallies that erupted here to protest allegedly flawed elections earlier this month.

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Echoes of Ukraine's "Orange Revolution" have struck in the central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan, where crowds of opposition activists have burned a police station and seized government buildings in rolling protests against alleged vote fixing.

Embattled Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev, who has ruled the tiny nation in semiauthoritarian style for the past 15 years, responded to the growing unrest in Kyrgyzstan's volatile and multiethnic south Monday by ordering a probe into the elections that international observers found seriously flawed.

Although a revolution appears to be taking shape in Kyrgyzstan similar to the ones that erupted in Georgia in 2003 and Ukraine last December, experts suggest the violent street revolts rocking Kyrgyzstan could develop very differently from the democratic upheavals that brought peaceful change to the other ex-Soviet states.

"There is a quite open and obvious attempt to imitate Ukraine's Orange Revolution by the opposition in these events, but the same methods may lead to very different results," says Irina Zvigelskaya, an regional expert with the independent Center for Strategic and Political Studies in Moscow.

"There is a real danger that instability in Kyrgyzstan could unleash the pent-up forces of Islamic fundamentalism or ethnic conflict. It could turn down very ugly streets."

The unrest began early this month to protest alleged breaches in the Feb. 27 parliamentary elections. It intensified after the subsequent March 13 runoffs that the opposition, several European countries, and the US all said were flawed.


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