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Ousted Kyrgyzstan president calls Sunday referendum illegitimate

From Matthew Chance, CNN
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Ousted Kyrgyzstan leader speaks
  • Kurmanbek Bakiev denies accusations he instigated deadly violence
  • Maintains he is still legitimate president of Kyrgyzstan
  • Acknowledges he is not in charge or likely to return to power soon
  • Bakiev was ousted in April after bloody riots
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Uzbekistan

Minsk, Belarus (CNN) -- Ousted Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev said Monday that Sunday's referendum establishing a new constitution was illegitimate. He vehemently denied accusations that he was behind recent violence that killed scores of ethnic Uzbeks.

Bakiev maintained he was still president of the Central Asian nation but acknowledged he is no longer in charge and not likely to return to power any time soon.

He was ousted in April when riots erupted after troops fired on protesters. He lives in exile in Belarus, where an exclusive interview with CNN took place in a government building.

Bakiev said Sunday's referendum is not valid because the government that held it is illegitimate.

International observers hailed Sunday's referendum as peaceful, and the Kyrgyz government's interim head, Roza Otunbayeva, said the vote took place without any reported incidents, according to the official Kabar news agency.

Government officials said more than 90 percent of voters cast ballots in favor of the constitution.

"We believe the referendum is valid. The new constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic has been approved," Otunbayeva said.

"It will not be an interim but a legal and legitimate government," she added. "We are leaving the word interim behind."

Omurbek Suvanaliev, leader of the Ata-Jurt opposition party, decried the results.

"Our party has already told that ... the draft constitution would collect as much percentage as the interim government would need," Suvanaliev said. "We consider that the referendum has been held with violations."

Kyrgyzstan -- a multiethnic, landlocked nation in Central Asia -- saw an outbreak of riots in April that killed at least 294 people, the official news agency said, citing the country's Health Ministry.

Most of the violence was centered in Osh, where the situation was tense Sunday and some polling stations and businesses had closed.

More than half a million people -- about a tenth of the nation's total population -- were displaced, many taking refuge in neighboring Uzbekistan. More than 1,300 houses were burned.

Bakiev denied accusations Monday that he was behind the violence.

"That's not true," he said in Russian. "I'm being made a scapegoat by the authorities."

He also denied accusations that he paid for gangs to instigate the violence.

"That's an absolute lie," he said adamantly. "Only those who seized power in Kyrgyzstan can say that."

Bakiev denied other allegations, including that he and his family embezzled millions of dollars from government accounts while he was in power. He said in a recent news conference he is paying for his own expenses in Belarus.

He seemed resigned and sad over his plight. Asked how long he believed he'd have to stay in exile, he said he has no plans.

"Time will tell how long I will stay in Belarus," a subdued Bakiev said. "It's pretty clear I will stay here for some time."

CNN's Brian Walker contributed to this report.