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Kyrgyzstan Appeals to Russia for Help, But Moscow Says No

VOA News 12 June 2010

Kyrgyzstan's interim president says she has asked Russia to send troops to quell ethnic riots that have killed at least 60 people and wounded hundreds.

Roza Otunbayeva said Saturday, without outside help, local authorities will not be able to end the violence in the southern city of Osh - the country's second-largest city.

Otunbayeva spoke with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin about the situation. A short time later an announcement in Moscow said there would be no immediate troops movements to Kyrgyzstan.

Armed gangs have stormed ethnic Uzbek neighborhoods in Osh, setting homes on fire and sending thousands of residents fleeing for the border with Uzbekistan.

Authorities say stores have been looted, food is running out and hospitals are having a hard time treating the massive number of wounded.

It is the worst violence in the country since former Kurmanbek Bakiyev was ousted in April.

More than 800 people have been wounded in clashes between the majority Kyrgyz and minority Uzbek communities in Osh, which is a stronghold of former president Bakiyev.

Earlier Saturday, Kyrgyzstan's interim government asked retired police and army officers to travel to Osh to squash the ethnic clashes to prevent them from escalating into a civil war.

Interim leader Otunbayeva has blamed the situation on outside elements. She accused groups, which she did not identify, of seeking to disrupt the constitutional referendum scheduled for later this month on reducing presidential powers.

Russia and China have called for a quick end to the unrest, which has raised concerns about the stability of a country that hosts both U.S. and Russian military bases.

The U.S. base in Kyrgyzstan is a key hub for military aircraft ferrying troops and supplies for the war in Afghanistan.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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