Russia does not rule out sending peacekeepers to Kyrgyzstan even as inter-ethnic violence in the Central Asian state has ebbed and replaced by fears of a humanitarian catastrophe.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made it clear that the dispatch of peacekeepers to Kyrgyzstan was still on the agenda of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation [CSTO], a Russia-led defence bloc of former Soviet states.

“However, any decision [to send troops] must be taken in keeping with the established procedures, namely, a request by a member-state and a consensus judgment [among the other members of the bloc]”, Mr. Lavrov told reporters in Moscow on Wednesday.

The interim government of Kyrgyzstan, which is a member of CSTO, appealed to Russia, as the current president in the defence alliance, for military help to end violence, but did not press on with the request as the situation began to normalise.

Mr. Lavrov said CSTO was going ahead with supplies of equipment for Kyrgyz security forces to help them stabilise the situation.

The southern part of Kyrgyzstan was relatively calm on Wednesday with the Army and the police finally taking control of the riot-hit cities of Osh and Jalal-Abad. However, the humanitarian situation tottered on the brink of catastrophe, United Nations officials warned.

“What is happening is already a tragedy and it could become a catastrophe,” said United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) Antonio Guterres in Berlin on Wednesday. The U.N. has estimated that 275,000 have fled bloody clashes in Kyrgyzstan.

Many neighbourhoods in the violence-affected cities did not have electricity, gas or water, and most shops had been looted and torched in four days of rioting. Thousands of Uzbek residents of Kyrgyzstan were still trying to flee to neighbouring Uzbekistan, forcing Uzbek authorities to reopen the border they shut on Tuesday out of fear they would not be able to accommodate more refugees.

In an appeal to the nation on Wednesday, the interim government, formed after a popular revolt swept away the previous administration in April, reaffirmed plans to hold a referendum on a new Constitution on June 27, to be followed by parliamentary elections soon afterwards, in an effort to achieve political stability.

Assistant U.S. Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Robert Blake, who is touring Central Asia, will visit the troubled southern region of Kyrgyzstan and hold talks with Kyrgyz leaders later this week. The U.S. has a key airbase in Kyrgyzstan running supplies to the NATO force in Afghanistan.

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