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Kyrgyzstan looks to Russia for help in quelling violence

Kyrgyzstan's interim president has appealed to Moscow for military help to face the escalating ethnic violence in the south of the country. The Kremlin, however, says it won't send troops for now.

torched houses in Osh, in southern Kyrgyzstan

Dozens were killed and hundreds injured in the violence on Friday

Kyrgyzstan's provisional government appealed on Saturday to neigboring Russia for help in containing the escalating ethnic violence in the south of the country, after at least 80 people were killed and around 1,000 injured since Friday.

"We need military support in order to get the escalating situation in the south under control," Interim President Roza Otunbayeva said in the capital Bishkek, according to the country's Akipress agency.

The government declared state of emergency for the city of Jalal-Abad and surrounding areas on Saturday, after having already declared a state of emergency for Osh, Kyrgyzstan's second-largest city, where the rampages have been taking place since Thursday.

The request was for peacekeeping forces which could come from several countries, Otunbayeva said, adding that the "dynamics of events" in the region permitted no other solution.

Violence between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks has escalated into running street battles, which prompted the government to impose a curfew. Cars were smashed and burned, and buildings set on fire.

Kremlin hesitant to send forces

Otunbayeva said she had contacted both Russian Premier Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev to ask for support.

Karte Kirgisistan mit Bischkek und Osch ENGLISCH

The initial response out of Moscow, however, was that the Kremlin would not send the forces Otunbayeva requested.

Medvedev's spokeswoman Natalya Timakova said Saturday that Russia would offer "humanitarian assistance" and that it would "help evacuate those wounded in Osh."

But she said that Russia wouldn't immediately send its own troops to Kyrgyzstan, because the requisite conditions weren't met for military involvement.

"This is an internal conflict and Russia does not yet see the conditions for its participating in resolving it," Timakhova said.

A decision to dispatch peacekeepers could be taken only after consultations with the United Nations, she added.

Timakova said that Moscow would hold consultations on Monday with regional nations on the possibility of sending its peacekeepers to Kyrgyzstan.

Since last April's uprising, which ousted President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, foreign leaders have warned of the possibility of civil war in the impoverished, but strategically important state, which hosts both US and Russian military bases.

The US government on Saturday called for "rapid restoration of peace and public order" and said it supported efforts by the UN and Europe to help quell the violence.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said on Friday it was ready to help resolve the conflict.

Author: Gabriel Borrud, Nicole Goebel (AP/dpa/AFP)
Editor: Rick Demarest

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