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New Violence Erupts in Soviet Republics

June 20, 1989|From Reuters

MOSCOW — Youths wielding firearms, Molotov cocktails and other weapons went on the rampage in the Soviet Central Asian republic of Kazakhstan, causing some deaths in the latest outbreak of violence in the nation's outlying republics, Tass news agency reported Monday.

Tass said the youths tried to seize public transport vehicles, a police station and other key points last weekend in the city of Novy Uzen, east of the Caspian Sea. It suggested that the violence was still going on.

The agency did not say what caused the flare-up Friday night, but earlier reports of trouble in the area said young people were angry about better working conditions enjoyed by employees temporarily in the area, probably ethnic Russians.

"There were attempts to seize the city police station and the water supply system," Tass said.

"There have been instances of arms being used, as well as Molotov cocktails. There have been deaths."

Tass said that rioters, also armed with sticks, iron bars and rocks, "are attacking homes, stores and administrative buildings and beating up passers-by in residential areas and on city streets." The wording suggested that the unrest was still out of control.

Public transport had been halted and many shops and industries were closed down.

The rioting was the fifth outbreak of violence in the last year in the Soviet Union's volatile southern republics.

It followed 10 days of violence in neighboring Uzbekistan this month in which at least 97 people died. Witnesses said Uzbeks hunted down minority Meskhetian Turks, burning homes, raping women and mutilating corpses.

Tass said the trouble in Novy Uzen, an oil and gas producing city of about 120,000, had initially been controlled but flared up again.

The Young Communist League daily Komsomolskaya Pravda said that young people, in talks with local authorities, had complained about "unequal pay between temporary workers and residents and the difficult social conditions in the (Mangishlak) peninsula."

Besides the violence in Uzbekistan, more than 90 people have died in clashes in Armenia and Azerbaijan since early 1988 over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.

In Soviet Georgia, 21 people died when troops used gas and shovels to end several days of nationalist demonstrations in the capital, Tbilisi. Disturbances have also been reported in the Central Asian republic of Turkmenia.

In December, 1986, at least two people died in the Kazakh capital, Alma Ata, in clashes that erupted after the appointment of an ethnic Russian to replace the republic's longtime Communist Party chief.

Premier Nikolai I. Ryzhkov last week said unemployment has played a role in the Uzbekistan violence, saying one in five adults in the riot-torn Fergana Valley had no job.

On Monday, authorities pledged to create jobs, clean up pollution and grow more food in that region to stem the economic and environmental problems behind the unrest.

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