Russia sent hundreds of paratroopers to Kyrgyzstan yesterday to protect its military facilities, Interfax reported, as ethnic clashes spread in the Central Asian state, bringing the death toll from days of fighting to 97.
Ethnic Uzbeks in a besieged neighborhood of Kyrgyzstan’s second city Osh said gangs, aided by the military, were carrying out genocide, burning residents out of their homes and shooting them as they fled. Witnesses saw bodies lying on the streets.
Interfax news agency, citing a security source, said a battalion of Russian paratroopers had arrived in the country yesterday to help protect Russian military facilities.
A Russian army battalion is usually around 400 men, but Interfax referred to a “reinforced battalion,” which can include as many as 650 troops.
“The mission of the force that has landed is to reinforce the defense of Russian military facilities and ensure security of Russian military servicemen and their families,” the source was quoted as saying.
Kyrgyz news website www.24.kg cited a Kyrgyz defense ministry source as saying Russian troops had landed at Kant air base aboard three Russian IL-76 aircraft.