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Amid Violence, Kyrgyzstan Appeals for Russia's Help

Kyrgyzstan is calling on Russia to help stop the worst ethnic fighting since former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev was ousted in April.

At least 60 people have been killed and hundreds wounded in ethnic violence in the city of Osh, the country's second largest.

Interim President Rosa Utanbayeva says officials are powerless to stop armed gangs from burning down the businesses and homes of ethnic Uzbeks in the southern city of Osh. Ms. Utanbayeva appealed to Russian officials to help stem the violence between the majority Kyrgyz and minority Uzbek communities. The city is also a stronghold of former Kyrgyzstan President Kurmanbek Bakiyev.

She says, since last night, the situation has gotten out of control and today, Saturday, they need the entry of the third party, its forces, or to be exact, of another party's forces. She says Kyrgyzstan needs the entry of outside armed forces to calm the situation down. She says the interim government has appealed to Russia for help and she has already signed such a letter for President Dmitri Medvedev.

Meanwhile, in central Moscow on Friday night, some 150 ethnic Uzbeks gathered for an unsanctioned rally outside government buildings. They, too, are asking for the Kremlin's help in protecting ethnic Uzbeks in Osh and the surrounding neighborhoods.

A man named Mamir participated in the demonstration on Friday night in Moscow.

He says they came here to ask the Russian Federation, to send the troops, to help protect their families in Osh from destruction. He adds that they'd been hiding in the basements. He says he doesn't know what is going on there. His fellow citizens, he says, are calling him now and saying they don't know whether they will survive or not till the next morning

The poor, ex-Soviet state of about five million people declared a state of emergency on Friday after rival ethnic gangs set fire to cars, and fought with each other using guns, iron bars and stones, among other things.

Interim President Otanbayeva says food is scarce, in Osh, and the city is facing a humanitarian crisis. Meanwhile, her government has sent more troops and armored vehicles to the southern city in an effort to quell the violence.

The country has seen violence off and on since former President Bakiyev was ousted by opposition forces in Bishkek in April. Much of the rioting and turmoil has occurred in the southern part of the country, seen by many analysts as a region loyal to Bakiyev.

The latest clashes are the worst ethnic violence in more than 20 years. At that time, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev sent troops into the region to quell violence.