View a slideshow of today's events in Kyrgyzstan
Protests have been growing against Kurmanbek Bakiyev's government for weeks, but the speed with which the situation in Kyrgyzstan descended into violence and chaos Wednesday surprised even dedicated Central Asia watchers. Events are still unfolding, and it's far from clear who will emerge the winner in the power struggle in Bishkek. But it's not too soon to ask whether warning signs of today's events should have been seen in advance, whether Western countries could have done anything to prevent today's bloodshed, and how to prevent another repressive government from taking place, as after 2005's "Tulip Revolution."
What is clear is that even Bakiyev's staunchest opponents aren't happy with the way his regime ended. I spoke with Edil Baisalov, a former Kyrgyz opposition leader and participant in the events of 2005 who has been living in exile in Sweden since 2007. He's preparing to return home tomorrow.
"The events of today don't look very nice on TV," he told me. "We don't have the flavor of the Orange Revolution. We don't see peaceful European protesters standing in the square holding candles. Despite our efforts to organize a national movement around civil resistance, this was a bloody uprising. It was clearly provoked by the regime and arrest of opposition leaders this week."
Casualty numbers are still unreliable, but at least 40 people were thought to have been killed on Wednesday as police used live ammunition, tear gas, and stun grenades on the protesters who had gathered outside the presidential palace in Bishkek. The protesters, some carrying automatic weapons themselves, stormed government offices and state broadcasters. Bakiyev fled the capital in his presidential plane and his location is still unknown.