US pledges millions in aid for Kyrgyzstan refugees

By Tom Esslemont
BBC News, Bishkek

Image caption,
Ethnic Uzbeks fled to the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border to escape the violence

The US government has pledged $48m (£32m) in aid to help ease the humanitarian crisis in Kyrgyzstan.

The US state department said the money would be spent on serving the needs of some 400,000 people displaced by the recent ethnic violence in the south.

Kyrgyzstan's interim authorities say as many as 2,000 people died in clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks.

It is two weeks since violence began in the southern city of Osh. A state of emergency remains in force.

Volatile situation

The authorities say that of the estimated 100,000 who fled across the border into neighbouring Uzbekistan nearly all have returned to their homes.

Many others have not, wary that more violence could be on the way.

The authorities are under pressure to keep security tight in the build up to a referendum on constitutional reform planned for Sunday.

Clearly not everything is going according to plan: the central election committee said six of its Uzbek workers were kidnapped briefly on Wednesday before being released unharmed.

In all this, it is important to remember the volatile political situation this country finds itself in only three months since President Kurmanbek Bakiyev was overthrown after days of protests.

The interim authorities - put to the test by the destabilising events of the last fortnight - now need to prove their worth by holding a peaceful referendum.

The West has tentatively backed the vote.

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