Michael Hancock at Registan:
As night comes to Kyrgyzstan, the violence in Osh is subsiding according to AKIpress, but the situation in general is heading south as fighting is reported in Jalalabad. [Apologies for mistakes in translation – they are my own]
В Жалал-Абаде наблюдается 6-7 очагов пожара по улице Ленина между автовокзалом и телекомпанией ЖТР, само здание ЖТР почти сгорело. По словам очевидцев, каждые пять минут слышны выстрелы, сотрудников милиции вообще нет, 15 машин спецназа направились в Сузакский район.
In Jalalabad 6 or 7 fires were observed burning on Lenin street between the bus station and the ZhTR broadcast station, with the broadcast station nearly consumed. According to witnesses, every five minutes shots are heard, with still no police response, and fifteen cars of the Spetsnaz (SWAT) in the Suzak region.
Russia Today has it that a crowd has raided/attacked a local military base.
The BBC has video (as does Al-Jazeera) of the refugees heading out of Osh into Uzbekistan as part of their story on the interim government’s plans to clamp down on inter-ethnic violence. The government is discussing the mobilization of peacekeeping forces from the CSTO, meaning the combined response forces of Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
Otunbaeva, I think I should have mentioned this before, has suggested that Bakiyev and his brother are directly responsible for inciting the riots. Russia is sending aid, which might account for the reported movements of their paratroopers in the area. Otunbaeva has addressed the nation, calling for peace and a cessation of violence. As the situation spirals out of control, the interim government’s cries for aid have become more strident.
Nathan Hamm at Registan:
Call it whatever you want, but I name it a massacre of Uzbeks in Osh and Jalalabad (Kyrgyzstan), which is, at the moment, still going on and the Interim government headed by Rosa Otunbaeva cannot do anything to prevent it. I knew of disaffection, I knew of tension, but I never knew there was so much hatred against Uzbeks in the South of Kyrgyzstan. I am blaming the incapable Interim government, and those people, who provoked masses, and especially those stupid Uzbek and Kyrgyz, who are buying it.
Grave reports continue coming from friends in Osh and Jalalabad. Videos and photos of killed Uzbeks, burning houses, restaurants and shops that belonged to Uzbeks started appearing in internet. Thousands of Uzbeks are seeking shelter in Uzbekistan. Today, the Uzbek authorities finally agreed to accept Uzbek refugees. Uzbeks in the South have lost their trust to the interim government and are hoping for Russia’s help, but Russia is not being active.
The emergency situation introduced in several cities in the South including Osh and Jalalabad is not helping. Many police and army institutions were attacked, and great numbers of weapons are now on people’s hands. People say that attacking groups wear police and army uniforms. Therefore, many have lost their trust in law enforcement institutions.
The Interim government is blaming everything on the Bakievs that the latter are intending to disrupt the referendum scheduled for 27th of June, 2010.
The death toll is much much higher than the official figures, as people are still finding dead corpses around Osh, and many were burnt down in their houses in mahallas (Uzbek neighborhoods). While I was writing this, I got several gruesome calls from friends in Jalalabad that some groups seized buildings belonging to army and police. Tonight, Jalalabad will suffer its worst night ever! My heart is with them!
The Kremlin says it won’t immediately send Russian troops to Kyrgyzstan, which has asked Moscow for military assistance to help quell ethnic violence.
But Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s spokeswoman, Natalya Timakova, said Saturday that Russia would offer humanitarian assistance and help evacuate those wounded in rampages that swept Kyrgyzstan’s second-largest city of Osh.
More than 60 people have been reported killed and nearly 850 wounded in the violence.
Steve LeVine at Foreign Policy:
Before Kyrgyzstan turned to Russia, it informally asked Washington for military assistance including a supply of rubber bullets to quell ethnic bloodletting in the south of the country, but was turned down, I am told by people privy to the situation. Russia says it may deploy troops if it’s a collective regional decision.
Kyrgyz President Rosa Otunbayeva made the request of Washington for troops and rubber bullets after Kyrgyz and Uzbeks living in the city of Osh began to fight on Friday. She formally asked for Russian help yesterday, putting the timing of the request to the U.S. sometime in between.
A senior Obama administration official, speaking to me on condition of anonymity, denied that the U.S. has received any formal Kyrgyz request for military assistance.
To the degree that the fighting — at least 100 people have already died and more than 1,000 have been injured in the fighting — destabilizes the fragile Kyrgyz government, it’s a security concern for the U.S., which maintains an important Air Force base near the capital of Bishkek that serves Afghanistan. In addition, Kazakhstan — with its enormous oil, uranium, copper and other natural resources — is right next door.
So in deferring to Russia for the security of its traditional backyard, Washington puts further distance between itself and Kyrgyzstan. It’s another signal of Washington’s policy reversal, known as “reset,” in which the Obama administration is attempting to have a more cooperative relationship with Moscow than did the Bush administration.
In an immediate sense, it is unclear what caused the violence. Kyrgyzstan has been on a low boil since Kurmanbek Bakiyev was forced from power in April. National police killed at least 83 protesters on April 7th, losing several of their own men too; less deadly clashes have broken out several times in the months since. The leader of the interim government, Roza Otunbayeva, has said that the latest fighting may have been sparked by a “local conflict”.
In another sense though, the cause of this week’s fighting is all too easy to guess. Ms Otunbayeva’s government, struggling to maintain order on a national scale, may well be right in its initial assessment that this began as an isolated fight in a casino. But it seems likely that the violence was caused by an explosion of the broader tensions between the ethnic groups that predominate in southern Kyrgyzstan. In the chaotic days and weeks after Mr Bakiyev surrendered his seat in Bishkek, opportunistic mobs indulged in looting and score-settling across the country. In the north, around Bishkek, Kyrgyz gangs attacked enclaves of Russians and Meshketian Turks. What had been latent became manifest.
But the real show was in the south, where Mr Bakiyev fled with his entourage, taking brief refuge in his family stronghold. One of our correspondents was travelling with him at the time: a major theme of the diary he kept was of the anxiety felt by both sides of the ethnic divide. A majority of the country is ethnically Kyrgyz, perhaps 70%, with large minorities of ethnic Uzbeks, Russians and other groups spread throughout. Uzbeks comprise perhaps 15% of the country’s population, a plurality among the minorities. But around Kyrgyzstan’s bit of the Fergana valley—the eastern rim surrounding the ethnically mixed heartland of modern Uzbekistan—Uzbeks form a narrow majority. (Ethnolinguistic maps of the region reward close study, though the figures from the best Soviet-era research are out of date.) Mr Bakiyev’s departure aggravated the anxieties felt by both of the peoples there: that in a vacuum, the other side would seize power. There was fighting in Jalalabad, the other major city of the south; our correspondent sheltered with Uzbeks in a university courtyard.
In June 1990, during the last days of the Kyrgyz and Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republics, street brawling around the oblast of Osh took a turn for the bloody. A state of emergency and curfew were imposed for the whole of the summer. That’s when Kyrgyzstan got its first president, Askar Akayev, who held country’s ethnic frictions in check while governing with increasing brutality—until Mr Bakiyev displaced him in the “tulip revolution” of 2005
UPDATE: Max Fisher at The Atlantic