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15 Jun, 2010 13:21

Humanitarian aid for Kyrgyzstan

As the crisis in Kyrgyzstan shows no signs of abating, international organizations and different countries, including Russia and the US, are expressing their concern over the events and pledging humanitarian help.

A group of UN human rights experts voiced their alarm over ethnic tensions that have erupted into violence in the Central Asian state.

They called on the country’s authorities to put a stop to the current violence, saying that “preventing its further escalation or spreading to other areas must be the first priority of the provisional Government.”
They noted that the present situation remains “extremely fragile and dangerous”.

The human rights experts also urged the interim authorities to analyze and address the true causes of tensions.

Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, reported earlier that there was evidence the unrest was coordinated and was sparked with five simultaneous attacks in Osh by men wearing ski masks.

According to him the assaults appeared to be aimed at stirring up a reaction by targeting places frequented by Osh's numerous criminal gangs.

The United Nations are sending emergency aid and staff to the troubled region. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees offered its assistance to Uzbek authorities who are struggling to deal with needs of the displaced.

Overwhelmed with the number of refugees, Uzbekistan closed the border with Kyrgyzstan on Tuesday.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced deep concern about the violence in a phone call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. He also thanked Russia for its efforts to address the humanitarian situation.

President Dmitry Medvedev instructed Emergencies Minister Sergey Shoigu to send relief supplies to Kyrgyzstan, the presidential press service reported.

"Three planes will fly to Bishkek on June 16. Each of them will deliver 42 tonnes of cargo, such as sugar, canned meat and fish and other food and blankets,” emergencies ministry spokesperson Irina Andrianova said.

Moscow maintains constant contact with the Kyrgyz interim government and discusses the situation in the republic with interested foreign states.

The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Tuesday saying Moscow is deeply concerned about the situation in Kyrgyzstan.

"We are worried about the latest events which exacerbate the already tense situation in
that country. Osh and Jalal-Abad are seriously damaged; there are fires, and shops and markets are looted. There is a pressing deficit of food and drinking water, and the exodus of ethnic Uzbeks continues from Kyrgyzstan to Uzbekistan.

"Russia continues to provide diverse humanitarian aid to people in the republic. A number of people heavily wounded in the clashes in southern Kyrgyzstan were brought to Moscow hospitals by a plane of the Emergency Situations Ministry," the ministry said.

On Monday, Moscow hosted an urgent meeting of the Security Council secretaries of the CSTO member-states that discussed measures to bring the situation in the Central Asian republic back to normal.

"We drafted concrete measures and submitted them for consideration to the heads of CSTO member-states for them to adopt these measures in the shortest possible time frame and for these steps to normalize the situation in Kyrgyzstan. At the same time, Kyrgyzstan's interim government should play the leading role," Russia's Security Council Secretary, Nikolay Patrushev, said.

Meantime, response to the Kyrgyz crisis is coming from all over the world.

The United States, which is also taking part in stabilization efforts, committed over $800,000 for immediate humanitarian assistance to be provided through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), according to the US Embassy in Bishkek.

The European commission has urgently assigned five million euros to help people in Kyrgyzstan. The money is intended for food and medical supplies.

At a special session in Vienna the OSCE member states said they are ready to "assist Kyrgyzstan upon its request in resolving the current crisis, preventing the spillover of tensions in the region, and in promoting post conflict rehabilitation.”

They also urged "all communities in Kyrgyzstan to refrain from violence and exercise restraint".
The World Food Programme is also responding to the dire humanitarian situation in the Central Asian country.

The agency called on all sides to allow the unimpeded delivery of supplies to the affected region, noting that transporting aid from the capital, Bishkek, is difficult, as roads are not safe and commercial trucking companies are reluctant to risk their vehicles.

The World Health Organization has already sent humanitarian help to Osh. Several planes arrived at Osh's airport with tons of medical supplies. Trucks carried supplies into the city with an armed escort.

Dr Madeleine Reeves, a social anthropologist from the University of Manchester in Britain, who used to live in the Kyrgyz city of Osh, said that her first reaction to the news about ethnic clashes was complete shock.

“There was a real sense that it came from nowhere,” Reeves claimed. “There was a great deal of surprise and great deal of confusion, so during the day I was constantly in contact with friends in Osh and with the very sizable community of Kyrgyz and Uzbek who are here in Moscow.”

“When I was living in Osh and other parts of the Fergana Valley, I think it’s fair to say that Kyrgyz and Uzbek communities, as a rule, get on very, very peacefully. There is centuries-long history of co-existence here between different cultural groups, different modes of live,” the scientist added.

“Most people who live in the city of Osh are bilingual, if not trilingual, between Kyrgyz, Uzbek and sometimes Russian as well,” Reeves stated. “There is a great deal of intermarriage that goes on in the city. A lot of people identify much more as Osh residents rather than as Kyrgyz or Uzbeks primarily. I think this has to be situated in the context of historical co-existence and interdependence, which is nonetheless marked by considerable tensions, that’s also true, and it’s also the case that the Kyrgyz and the Uzbeks typically occupy different structural economic positions within the city economy, and I think on both sides there are quite legitimate feelings of grievances which have played into the current conflict.”

Rupert Colville from the UN Commission for Human Rights says the violent clashes in Kyrgyzstan were well-planned and orchestrated.

“We have a very good, tried and trusted network from people we deal with in the Osh area, in Dzhalal-Abad, and our staff in Bishkek have been talking to them a lot over the last few days,” Colville said. “And basically there is pretty much consensus that this was not a spontaneous interethnic clashes, but something deliberately provoked. It seems there were five simultaneous attacks on the first night. That in itself, if that’s true, shows quite considerable degree of orchestration.”

“We are not in the position to name names and point fingers at this point, but I think what’s important is to show that it is not simply an ethnic issue,” Colville continued. “That may well be strong political undertones, possibly even criminal undertones. Osh is a center of some of the big drug dealing gangs, dealing with drugs coming out of Afghanistan, so there could be an element of criminality involved as well.”