MOSCOW —The Defense Ministry called up reserve troops yesterday to help 29000 soldiers quell ethnic violence in the Caucasus that has killed at least 66 people and wounded more than 220.
Defense Minister Dmitri T. Yazov said the additional troops were necessary to maintain order and possibly enforce a curfew — a measure authorities in the republic of Azerbaijan have refused to impose despite reports of vicious attacks by Azerbaijani extremists on Armenian residents.
At least 10500 Armenians have been evacuated from the Azerbaijani capital of Baku, where rampaging Azerbaijani mobs began the violence Saturday.
Extremists have obtained heavy weaponry, including helicopters, tanks and ground-to-ground missiles in what Interior Minster Vadim Bakatin yesterday called a “civil war.”
In his first public comments since the Baku riots, President Mikhail S. Gorbachev defended the Kremlin’s decision Monday to declare a state of emergency but said the ethnic problems date back centuries.
“The problems, which have been accumulating for tens, no, for hundreds of years, have erupted and acquired the character we are now confronted with in the Baltics, Moldavia and now in such forms this interethnic strife are going on in Transcaucasia, in Azerbaijan and Armenia,” he told a meeting in Moscow.
“We are now busy trying to halt this process, to prevent it from going deeper and getting more acute,” Gorbachev said in comments broadcast on state radio. “We have resorted to the use of force against criminals, against this vandalism.”
On Wednesday, the 29000 troops already in Azerbaijan and the republic of Armenia were authorized to shoot if necessary to stop the fighting in the hills around the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.
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