Kyrgyzstan invites Russian troops to end unrest

Kyrgyzstan has asked Russia to send troops to quell violence that has killed more than 50 people.

Bishkek: Kyrgyzstan has asked Russia to send troops to quell ethnic violence that has killed more than 50 people and wounded about 700.

Interim President Roza Otunbayeva says without outside help the provisional authorities can`t end violence that has raged since Friday in the southern city of Osh.

She said on Saturday she had sent a letter to Russian president Dmitry Medvedev asking him to send in military forces. There has been no response from Russia yet.

Police and soldiers struggled to stop ethnic clashes as gangs of armed young Kyrgyz men marched on Uzbek neighborhoods and fires raged.

Renewed turmoil in the impoverished former Soviet republic will fuel concern among regional players Russia, China and the United States.

Washington uses its air base in the north of the country, about 300 km (190 miles) from Osh, to supply its forces in Afghanistan.

Kyrgyzstan, which won independence with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, has been in turmoil since the revolt that toppled Bakiyev on April 7, kindling fears of civil war.

Ethnic Unrest

Ethnic unrest between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks is a concern in the Fergana valley where Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan meet. Hundreds of people were killed in ethnic clashes near Osh, a city of more than 200,000 in 1990.

On May 19, two people were killed and 74 wounded in clashes between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in the city of Jalalabad. On the same day, Otunbayeva said she would rule the country until the end of 2011, scrapping plans for presidential polls in October.

Of Kyrgyzstan`s 5.3 million population, ethnic Kyrgyz make up 69.6 percent, Uzbeks 14.5 percent and Russians 8.4 percent.

In the south, Uzbeks comprise about 40 percent of the 1 million population in the Jalalabad region and about 50 percent in the neighboring region of Osh.

Bureau Report

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