Kyrgyz Government Invites Russian Peacekeepers

Kyrgyz interim president Roza Otunbayeva
Kyrgyz interim president Roza Otunbayeva (Presidency of Kyrgyzstan)

Kyrgyzstan’s interim government led by Roza Otunbayeva has asked for Russian military support to suppress violence in the south of the country on Saturday. Dozens were reportedly killed in the city of Osh last week amid confrontations between native Kyrgyz and Uzbek youths.

Mass riots in Osh escalated into violence on Thursday night, resulting in hundreds of protesters being injured and, according to Russian and Chinese media, at least 62 deaths. Rioters set fire to government buildings amid widespread looting and vandalism. The unrest also spread to the capital, Bishkek, where armed mobs clashed with police and volunteer militias. Army and police reinforcements were quickly dispatched to quell the violence and a curfew has been imposed throughout southern Kyrgyzstan to last until June 20.

A spokesman for Roza Otunbayeva quoted the interim president as admitting that the situation “got out of control” and that Kyrgyzstan needs “outside military forces to solve the situation.”

Otunbayeva came to power in April after riots in the north of the country forced then President Kurmanbek Bakiyev to flee the capital and seek refuge in the south. He fled to Kazakhstan on April 15 and to Belarus next where he continues to claim the presidency. His government was plagued by corruption and perceived as being dominated by southerners. The interim government evidently suffers from the same problem the other way around and blames Bakiyev for stirring violent uprisings in the southern part of the country.

Russian troops currently stationed at Kant Air Base twenty kilometers east of the Kyrgyz capital have not been ordered to intervene, according to Russian authorities. President Dmitri Medvedev declared on Friday that Russia was ready to assist if necessary. Speaking in the Uzbek capital of Tashkent, he added that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization would send observers to Kyrgyzstan, which he called an “ally and a close partner.”

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