Russia sends in troops as slaughter leaves Kyrgyzstan on the brink of collapse

Kyrgyz soldiers on an armoured vehicle patrolling Kyrgyzstan

From Tony Halpin, the Times (London):  Russia flew troops to Kyrgyzstan last night to reinforce security at its military base near Bishkek as ethnic slaughter spread across the south of the country and tens of thousands of refugees poured into neighbouring Uzbekistan.

As the Kyrgyz authorities ordered police and soldiers to shoot to kill rioters, in an effort to end the country’s worst ethnic violence in 20 years, Moscow sent as many as 650 paratroopers “to ensure the security of Russian servicemen and their families”.

The Kremlin has, so far, rejected an appeal by Kyrgyzstan’s interim Government to send troops to the southern regions of Osh and Jalalabad, where more than 100 people have died and up to 1,400 have been wounded in three days of clashes between Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbek groups. However, the size of the protection force fuelled speculation that a meeting later today of a Nato-style security alliance for former Soviet states could authorise a Russian-led peacekeeping mission to intervene and head off a possible civil war. The Collective Security Treaty Organisation includes Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, which announced yesterday that more than 75,000 refugees had crossed its border to escape the violence. …

[The interim President Roza] Otunbayeva issued a decree authorising lethal force against rioters to protect life and property, imposed a 24-hour curfew in the Osh region, and extended a state of emergency across southern Kyrgyzstan.

The Government dispatched five aircraft carrying soldiers from Bishkek to try to restore order in Jalalabad and announced a call-up of army reservists aged 18 to 50.  (photo: Reuters)

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