Kyrgyzstan holds minute of silence for its 2,000 dead
Kyrgyzstan marked a nationwide minute of silence Friday to commemorate the more than 2,000 estimated to have died in the country's recent spasm of violence, dpa reported.
Interim President Rosa Otunbayeva, speaking in the devastated southern city of Osh, spoke of a national tragedy and said that Osh, the biggest Kyrgyz city after Bishkek, must be rebuilt after the recent ethnic clashes between Kyrgyzs and Uzbeks.
She said that about 2,000 could have died in the recent clashes, noting in an interview with Russia's Kommersant newspaper that estimates until now of 200 dead would likely have to increase by a multiple of 10.
"There were many deaths in the villages and, according to our traditions, they are buried immediately, no later than sundown," said Otunbayeva.
That means many of those deaths were never recorded. Other official estimates have placed the death toll from the recent pogroms at about 2,500.
Although there were no new reports of fighting on Friday, the refugee situation sparked by the recent violence continued, with tens of thousands of members of the Uzbek minority trying to flee into Uzbekistan.
But Uzbekistan has closed its borders, saying it can absorb no more refugees. UN estimates state there could be as many as 400,000 refugees.
Tensions continue to remain high after former president Kurmanbek Bakiyev was deposed in April. Otunbayeva's administration has indicated that fighting might also break out in the country's north.
It remains unclear if a June 27 referendum on a new national constitution will be able to go forward as planned. Residents of the south have asked, after the recent fighting, if the referendum could be delayed by 40 days.
The international community has stated that such a referendum is vital to restore political stability in the former Soviet republic.
In Moscow, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned in an interview iwth Kommersant newspaper of further instability, leading to an "Afghan scenario from the time of the Taliban."
US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake expressdhis concern about the situation of the hundreds of thousands of refugees and expellees in the region.
After a visit to inspect a refugee camp in Uzbekistan, Blake called for an independent investigation into the violence.