- The Washington Times - Monday, March 28, 2005

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan — Ravshan Jeyenbekov had once served as a minister of state property in President Askar Akayev’s Cabinet and knew Mr. Akayev’s daughter Bermet well.

So when a disparate group of opposition figures followed the crowd into Bishkek’s main government building last week and found only a few dozen dazed support staff, it decided a proper transition of power required a paper trail: a letter of resignation from Mr. Akayev.

Mr. Jeyenbekov and Medet Saderkulov, Mr. Akayev’s former chief of staff, left the chaotic building and climbed into a gleaming white Land Cruiser driven by a friend of Mr. Jeyenbekov’s in search of the president.

“Bermet, where are you?” Mr. Jeyenbekov barked into his cell phone as the car purred toward the presidential compound. “Look, I want to work with you. We will guarantee your safety, but we need to meet with your father so he can formally resign. What? But who should I talk to then?”

He had made no progress by the time the car pulled up at the prime minister’s residence. “She won’t even tell me where she is,” he said with exasperation.

Dressed entirely in black like the dozen other people present, Mr. Jeyenbekov went inside the slightly dilapidated concrete house whose white paint was peeling in places. The prime minister, a Russian named Nikolai Tanayev with a mane of gray hair, eventually appeared, wearing a blue coat.

He curtly declined to speak to the lone journalist present and went back inside. Eventually, Mr. Tanayev’s driver appeared, carrying a large suitcase that he placed in a car.

Mr. Tanayev was said to be ready to resign, but the opposition leaders said that wouldn’t be much help.

A Jeyenbekov aide said the prime minister’s staff had disclosed that the president, after leaving the White House, had gone to his residence, which was in the same compound but not visible from the prime minister’s home, and had left by helicopter.

“We believe he is in Kant,” said the aide, Balbak Tulobayev, who worked in the White House but was a supporter of Mr. Jeyenbekov’s presidential ambitions. Kant is the site of a small Russian air base created after the United States set up its own base at Bishkek’s main airport to service planes flying to and from Afghanistan.

For the next two hours, Mr. Jeyenbekov pleaded in a series of phone calls to the president’s daughter. “Don’t leave, Bermet. I promise we will not betray you,” he said.

In between calls to Miss Akayev — whose election, with that of her brother, to the parliament last week is held up as an example of the nepotism that had infected Mr. Akayev’s rule — Mr. Jeyenbekov tackled other pressing issues.

Speaking to protesters occupying the state capitol building in the northern city of Talas, he said, “Give the governor his job back so he can govern. We need to avoid chaos.”

To others in Bishkek, he said, “We need to create a security service urgently, for the White House and for everywhere. Get some volunteers and meet at the Russia cinema.”

In the end, Mr. Jeyenbekov’s pleading with Miss Akayev was to no avail. He finally pocketed his cell phone and said grimly: “They have flown away.”

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