Ethnic Russians flee turbulent Kyrgyzstan as violence worsens
The number of ethnic Russians who want to leave Kyrgyzstan has risen dramatically, with many fearing persecution on ethnic grounds, a representative of Russian Migration Service said on Friday, RIA Novosti reported.
Since the violence began with the ouster of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev in April, some 280 people a day have been applying for permission to enter Russia, Konstantin Poltoranin told the Voice of Russia radio station. Before the unrest, he said the figure was less than 50.
The violence in the country has worsened in recent days, with deadly riots on Thursday in the southern city of Osh and gunfire late on Friday in the center of the capital, Bishkek.
A state of emergency has been declared in Osh, where a Health Ministry spokesman said the death toll has risen to 40, with more than 600 injured in the rioting.
The international community, including the United Nations and the European Union, called on Friday for a halt to the violence.
"The secretary general is deeply concerned about reports of renewed violence and several deaths in Osh, Kyrgyzstan," a spokesman for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement.
"He calls for calm to be restored and urges all involved to show the utmost restraint to prevent further losses of life," the statement said.
In the statement, Ban reiterated "the need to respect the rule of law and to resolve issues peacefully through dialogue," calling on Kyrgyzstan's interim government to "pay particular attention to inter-ethnic relations in the country."
The secretary general's special representative, Miroslav Jenca, was in Osh last Sunday and will continue his efforts to ensure the peace and stability of Kyrgyzstan.
The EU's high representative for foreign affairs and security policy expressed "deep concern" over the violence.
"I call upon all involved in the clashes to cease violence immediately and allow the inhabitants of the city of Osh and the surrounding region to return to normal life," Catherine Ashton said in a statement.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Friday that he was confident the government in Bishkek would resolve the situation.
"All the problems of Kyrgyzstan have internal roots. They are rooted in the weakness of the former authorities and their unwillingness to take care of the people's needs. I believe all the existing problems will be resolved by the Kyrgyz authorities. The Russian Federation will help," he said.
Kyrgyz health officials said relief planes carrying a group of 27 doctors and humanitarian aid set off from Kyrgyzstan's capital, Bishkek, to Osh earlier in the day.
Riots broke out in the country's second largest city on Thursday night, reportedly after a fight between locals and members of the city's Uzbek population. Groups of youths rampaged through the city, setting fire to cars and buildings and breaking shop windows. Unrest spread across the city and into the surrounding region.
Kyrgyzstan's interim government has imposed a state of emergency in Osh and its surrounding regions until June 20.
More than 1,000 servicemen and police have been deployed to patrol the area and checkpoints have been set up on roads into the city.
Outbreaks of violence have become commonplace in Kyrgyzstan since the ouster of the republic's government and president in early April.