Russia has rejected an appeal from Kyrgyzstan for troops to help stop ethnic fighting in which at least 65 people have been killed and hundreds wounded.
Kyrgyzstan’s interim government said it has lost control of the country’s second-largest city Osh where witnesses report armed gangs of Kyrgyz have attacked the homes and businesses of ethnic Uzbeks.
Thousands have fled across the border into neighbouring Uzbekistan.
Kyrgyzstan has been in turmoil since the April revolt that toppled Kurmanbek Bakiyev, the president of the poor central Asian state, leading to fears of civil war.
Interim leader Roza Otunbayeva accused Bakiyev’s supporters of being behind the attacks and appealed to Moscow.
She said: “We need more military forces in order to pacify, to settle, the situation and have asked Russia for help.
Russia responded that it would provide humanitarian aid and evacuate the wounded but no troops.
In Moscow several dozen ethnic Uzbeks, citizens of Kyrgyzstan, gathered at the Uzbekistan embassy.
One woman made an emotional appeal: “Our relatives are calling us, asking for help, asking us to seek help from Russia. We are asking Russia to help.”
Moscow said it will consult on Monday with other countries in the Collective Security Treaty Organisation on the possibility of sending peacekeepers to Kyrgyzstan.
Tensions have long simmered along the borders between Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan which were draw up by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin without regard to the ethnic make-up of the region.