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Uzbek Students From Kyrgyzstan Having Problems In Russia

Uzbek students from southern Kyrgyzstan attending an agrcultural college in Rzhev have spent a week camped out in the school gymnasium.
RZHEV, Russia -- Ethnic Uzbek students from southern Kyrgyzstan are facing problems in the Russian city of Rzhev, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports.

The young Uzbeks -- 250 boys and 17 girls -- arrived in Rzhev in Tver Oblast in September from the southern Osh and Uzgen regions.

Salijan Sharipov, a Kyrgyz cosmonaut of Uzbek origin who is now a Russian citizen, helped secure their admission to an agricultural college in Rzhev in the wake of the violent clashes between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in southern Kyrgyzstan in June.

But on May 1, all of the Uzbek students were ordered to vacate their dormitories. They were finally allowed to return on May 9, after a week camped out in the college's classrooms and gymnasium.

College director Sergei Zhegunov told RFE/RL the problems started at the beginning of the academic year last fall. He said the Rzhev Mayor's Office was quoted in the local media as asking whether the Uzbek students were legally in Russia.

After that, Zhegunov said, repeated visits by fire inspectors and tax police became a problem. He said he suspects local authorities are trying to extort bribes from the Uzbek students.

"What can they take from young teenagers, many of whom are orphans and some of whom have health problems?" Zhegunov asked.

One student, Sherzod Sharipov from Ugzen, said the Uzbek students were asked to leave the dormitory after a court ruled that the building was a fire hazard.

But Zhegunov said only Uzbek students were asked to leave the six-storey building, while all the Russian students, who live on the first floor, were allowed to remain.

Zhegunov said local people and college teachers helped the Uzbek students by providing them with food, clothes, and blankets.

Rzhev city officials were not available for comment.