Kyrgyzstan prepares for Russian troops as toll rises (Lead)

June 14th, 2010 - 5:26 pm ICT by IANS  

Moscow/Bishkek, June 14 (DPA) Officials at a Kyrgyz airport located in the strife-riven southern city of Osh have been ordered to prepare the facility for the arrival of Russian troops, the AKIpress news agency reported Monday.
The news followed earlier reports that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was considering military aid to quell the rioting and looting in the Central Asian country, despite rejecting a similar request over the weekend.

The inter-ethnic violence in Osh had abated by Monday morning, according to media reports, but new clashes between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz mobs erupted in the city of Jalalabad.

The death toll for the skirmishes has risen to 120 since Thursday, with more than 1,500 injured and tens of thousands of ethnic Uzbeks fleeing their homes.

The fresh unrest follows the overthrow of president Kurmanbek Bakiyev in April.

Speaking in Luxembourg, European Union’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the bloc is “very concerned” at the escalating crisis in Kyrgyzstan.

“It is very very important to me that we get order restored. This is a very dangerous political situation,” Ashton warned, adding that she had been in touch with Russia and the head of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

The members of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, a military alliance of seven former Soviet republics of which Kyrgyzstan is a member, was scheduled to meet in Moscow to discuss options to restore peace in the Central Asian state.

The Kyrgyz military, which is considered to be chronically under-financed and weak, has been unable to control the violence.

Kyrgyzstan is host to both Russian forces and a US airbase. Its government has reportedly not approached the US for help.

Medvedev said the ethnic clashes needed to be stopped as soon as possible and order restored, the Interfax news agency reported.

Russia Sunday had deployed hundreds more soldiers to its Kyrgyz military base in Kant, where three military planes carrying a battalion of Russian paratroopers and ammunition had landed. But those troops were said to only be tasked with protecting the base.

The interim government has said it believes Bakiyev’s family clan is behind the unrest, stoking ethnic tension with targeted murders perpetrated by provocateurs.

The Uzbek minority said more than 500 people had been killed.

According to the Red Cross, many bodies have been buried without prior identification.

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