Kyrgyzstan's prime minister on Friday alleged that the country's political opposition was planning to topple his government in a coup, as activists declared an indefinite campaign of protests to force the president's resignation.
Prime Minister Felix Kulov told a government session that an unidentified person had handed over a recording of a conversation between opposition leaders and representatives of an unspecified non-governmental organization discussing a coup in the turbulent ex-Soviet state.
"They talked about seizing the city hall, the Committee for State Security, state television and some buildings in the provinces," Kulov said.
"There is no power in the country that can succeed in a coup," he warned.
Part of the recording was played at the government session, and voices resembling those of opposition leaders Omurbek Tekebayev and Almazbek Atambayev could be heard amid background noise, but the words were not discernible to reporters in the hall.
Tekebayev, who leads the Ata-Meken party, was forced to step down as a parliament speaker in February after telling President Kurmanbek Bakiyev to "go hang himself."
The opposition rejected the allegations as "a provocation."
"By rallying here we are forcing the government to initiate talks on constitutional reform," said Rosa Otunbayeva, a one-time Bakiyev ally turned opposition activist. "There will be no attempts to topple the government by force."
Bakiyev refused to step down in the face of Thursday's protests, which brought some 30,000 people into the streets, but opposition forces vowed to keep up the pressure against him in a dispute over proposed political reforms that would cut his powers.
Shops and markets closed in fear of a repeat of the dramatic March 2005 protests that drove the former Soviet republic's longtime leader Askar Akayev from power he fled the country as opposition supporters swarmed his headquarters.
Hundreds of police in riot gear and with German shepherd dogs deployed around the presidential headquarters, reports AP.
Bakiyev, himself a former opposition leader, has seen his tenure marred by high-profile slayings, prison riots, economic ills and battles for control of lucrative businesses.
On Friday, about 1,500 protesters could be seen in front of the presidential headquarters on Bishkek's central square, where the previous day's crowd reached 30,000.