UN, EU say rioting in Kyrgyzstan must not derail voting; reports say violence was deliberate

By Yuras Karmanau, AP
Tuesday, June 15, 2010

UN urges Kyrgyz to hold vote despite deadly unrest

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan — The United Nations and the European Union urged Kyrgyzstan not to let ethnic riots derail a key constitutional referendum and parliamentary elections, as reports emerged Tuesday that suggested the rioting was deliberately started.

The southern part of the impoverished Central Asian nation has been convulsed by days of rioting targeting minority Uzbeks, which has left the country’s second-largest city, Osh, in smoldering ruins and prompted tens of thousand of Uzbeks to flee for their lives to neighboring Uzbekistan.

Kyrgyzstan’s interim government, which took over when former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev was ousted in an April uprising, has accused Bakiyev’s family of instigating the violence to halt a June 27 referendum on a new constitution. Uzbeks have mostly backed the interim government, while many Kyrgyz in the south have supported Bakiyev. From self-imposed exile in Belarus, Bakiyev has denied any ties to the violence.

Interim President Roza Otunbayeva insisted again Tuesday that Bakiyev supporters stoked the conflict.

“Many instigators have been detained and they are giving evidence on Bakiyev’s involvement in the events. No one has doubts that he is involved,” she said.

Rupert Collie, spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, told reporters in Geneva there was evidence the violence was coordinated and began with five simultaneous attacks in Osh by men wearing balaclavas. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay also said the fighting “appears to be orchestrated, targeted and well-planned” and urged authorities to act before it spread further.

Kyrgyz security chief Kenishbek Duishebayev said Bakiyev’s younger son, Maxim, was arrested Monday in Britain. Prosecutors allege that companies he owned avoided almost $80 million in taxes on aviation fuel sold to suppliers of the U.S. air base near the capital of Bishkek.

Suspects from Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan were also detained and claimed to have been hired by Bakiyev supporters to start the rioting, government spokesman Farid Niyazov said.

U.N. representative Miroslav Jenca, visiting the capital of Bishkek on Tuesday, said the June 27 referendum and parliamentary elections scheduled in October must go ahead so Kyrgyzstan moves further toward democracy.

“The referendum and the elections must be held at the announced times,” Jenca said, a position backed by the EU, according to Germany’s ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, Holger Green.

Yet the scale of the damage was so vast in the south it was hard to see how a legitimate vote could be held in less than two weeks. Up to 200,000 people have fled violence within Kyrgyzstan just since Thursday, UN refugee agency spokesman Andrej Mahecic said in Geneva.

An AP photographer in the southern town of Nariman, near Osh, saw 10 buses and trucks filled with Uzbek refugees heading toward the border Tuesday in just 10 minutes.

At a Nariman hospital, dozens of wounded Uzbeks lay in corridors and broken beds — some recovering, some not. Many at the hospital, which was out of medical supplies for a sixth day, claim the rampages had been premeditated.

“Well-armed people who were obviously well prepared for this conflict were shooting at us,” said Teymurat Yuldashev, 26, who had bullet wounds in his arm and chest of different caliber. “They were organized, with weapons, militants and snipers. They simply destroyed us.”

Deadly rampages in the country’s south began Thursday, as mobs of ethnic Kyrgyz torched homes and businesses of ethnic Uzbeks. Many sections of Osh, a city of 250,000, have burned to the ground since then, and the rampages have spread into surrounding towns and regions.

Tens of thousands of Uzbeks are now in makeshift accommodation in 30 different refugee camps in Uzbekistan. Several camps were centered in the eastern city of Andijan.

An AP photographer saw several thousand refugees waiting in squalid conditions on the Kyrgyz side of the border.

Clashes continued in and around Osh on Tuesday, said Omurbek Suvanaliyev, regional police chief told The Associated Press.

Interior Ministry troops were patrolling the nearby city of Jalal-Abad, but city spokeswoman Klaya Tapkeyeva said she did not consider the town safe.

The Health Ministry on Tuesday said the death toll from the clashes has reached 171, with nearly 1,800 injured. Observers believe the real figures to be much higher, with communities burying bodies before the deaths had been registered. In addition, many Uzbek refugees arriving in Uzbekistan had gunshot wounds.

will not be displayed