Kyrgyz leaders must tackle violence: Medvedev

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Kyrgyzstan authorities must themselves tackle the humanitarian "tragedy" in that Central Asian country, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Thursday, praising neighbour Uzbekistan for its "balanced position."

"I think there is no need to involve Russian peacekeepers, and our Kyrgyz partners withdrew that request, because actually it is they themselves that must resolve this situation, it is an internal affair," Medvedev said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal published on the Kremlin's website.

Medvedev deplored the "inter-ethnic tensions that came out strong when the Soviet Union was falling apart" and warned that "if order is not restored but elections are held, politically Kyrgyzstan will be divided into small segments with strong internal tensions."

"But the most dangerous scenario would be if radicals came to power, and if they did so legitimately," Medvedev said, evoking comparison with the Taliban rising to power in Afghanistan.

The Russian leader also praised Uzbekistan's "very careful, balanced position on this issue -- they accept refugees but avoid raising hue and cry over it all."

Up to several hundred are estimated dead from the wave of ethnic bloodshed that hit Kyrgyzstan, with fleeing refugees claiming the violence was a brutal and orchestrated campaign by armed militias of ethnic Kyrgyz targeting their Uzbek neighbours.

Up to 100,000 people had taken refuge in Uzbekistan, not counting children, while about 300,000 are thought to be internally displaced, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs told AFP.

© 2010 AFP

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