Kyrgyzstan asks for Russian help to end ethnic violence
Kyrgyzstan’s interim leader Roza Otunbayeva has asked for Russian military assistance to help end ethnic violence in which over 50 people have been killed. Otunbayeva made the appeal to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Saturday as she admitted that the situation in the Central Asian country was “out of control."
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At least 75 people have died and almost 1,000 have been injured in clashes between ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in the south of the country.
"I have signed a letter asking Dmitry Medvedev for third-party forces to be sent to the Kyrgyz Republic," Otunbayeva said in a televised address.
"Since yesterday the situation has gotten out of control. We need outside military forces to halt the situation. For this reason we have appealed to Russia for help," she said.
Russia responded by saying it was rushing humanitarian aid to Krygyzstan but would not be sending any troops.
"This is an internal conflict and Russia does not yet see the conditions for its participating in resolving it," Medvedev's spokeswoman was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying.
Correspondent Luke Harding in Moscow
The biggest clashes have taken place in the city of Osh, which was the stronghold of ousted President Kurmanbek Bakiyev before he was toppled on 7 April and fled to Belarus.
"Entire streets are on fire," Interior Ministry spokesman Rakhmatillo Akhmedov said. "The situation is very bad. There is no sign of it stopping. Homes have been set ablaze."
Thousands of Uzbek women and children have fled to the nearby border with Uzbekistan, according to French press agency AFP.
Andrea Berg, a Human Rights Watch researcher who has been trapped in Osh since the fighting began, pleaded for international help.
"The situation here looks terrible. The government doesn't have any more control over the city. It's war," she said. "There is no way for a safe passage out to the airport and the Uzbek neighbourhoods are burning. Shootings everywhere. Horrible phone calls from people locked in these mahallas (Uzbek neighbourhoods) seeing how their neighbours are being slaughtered."
Both Russia and the United States have military bases in the ex-Soviet state, which has a population of 5.3 million people.
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