Uzbek refugees from Osh, Kyrgyzstan.
(photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
OSH, Kyrgyzstan — Ethnic riots spread across southern Kyrgyzstan on Saturday, forcing thousands of Uzbeks to flee as their homes were torched by roving mobs of Kyrgyz men.
The Kremlin Saturday afternoon refused a request by the Kyrgyz interim president Roza Otunbayeva to immediately send in Russian troops to quell the ethnic violence that had killed more than 75 people and wounded about 1000.
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"It's a domestic conflict, and Russia now doesn't see conditions for
taking part in its settlement," Kremlin spokeswoman Natalya Timakova
said in Moscow. She added that Russia will discuss the possibility of
sending a joint peacekeeping force with other members of a security pact
of ex-Soviet nations.
Timakova said Russia would send a plane to to deliver humanitarian
supplies and help evacuate victims of the violence.
'Without outside help we can't quell the violence'
The interim president said that without outside help the provisional
authorities can't end violence that has raged since Friday in the
southern city of Osh. The impoverished Central Asian nation hosts both a
Russian and a US air base, considered a crucial supply hub for
operations in neighboring Afghanistan.
Much of Kyrgyzstan’s second-largest city, Osh, was on fire Saturday and
the sky overhead was black with smoke. Gangs of young Kyrgyz men armed
with firearms and metal bars marched on minority Uzbek neighborhoods and
set homes on fire. Stores were looted and the city was running out of
Those driven from their homes rushed toward the border with Uzbekistan,
and an Associated Press reporter there saw the bodies of children
trampled to death in the panicky stampede. Crowds of frightened women
and children made flimsy bridges out of planks and ladders to cross the
ditches marking the border.
Interim President Roza Otunbayeva acknowledged that her government has
lost control over Osh, a city of 250,000, even though it sent troops,
armor and helicopters to quell the riots. Violence spread to the nearby
city of Jalal-Abad later Saturday. "We need outside forces to quell the
confrontation," Otunbayeva told reporters.