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Thousands of ethnic Uzbeks massed this week in VLKSM (Veh-L-Kah-S-M), a village near Kyrgyzstan’s main southern city of Osh. The village’s name is a Russian-language acronym for the Soviet Communist Youth League, leftover from when this Central Asian nation was a Soviet republic.

Red Cross spokesman Christian Cardon said agency workers distributed oil and wheat flower to 12,750 displaced people in VLKSM on Saturday and handed out supplies to 18,750 displaced in Suretapa.

“The situation is still quite tense, but we’re able to access all the places” where uprooted people have gathered, he said.

Employees from the Kyrgyz Red Crescent and ICRC workers monitor the distribution of aid, he said.

Many said they could not go back to their towns and live next to the people they accuse of attacking them.

“This is our nation, this is a holy land, but I can’t live here any more,” said Mukhabat Ergashova, a retiree who had taken shelter with dozens of others in a crowded tent.

“We are all witnesses to the fact that innocent citizens were fired upon from an armored personnel carrier by soldiers in military uniform. I don’t know whether they were from the government or some third party, but they only shot at Uzbeks,” said Sabir Khaidir, an ethnic Uzbek in Jalal-Abad.

Supplies of bread and rice from Uzbekistan kept the refugees from starvation. But many had to sleep in the open air, and overcrowding, bad sanitary conditions and a shortage of clean water were making many sick. Overwhelmed doctors struggled to treat outbreaks of diarrhea and other ailments with paltry medical supplies.

In Osh, the atmosphere remained tense, with barricades of burned out cars and debris blocking Uzbek neighborhoods. Otunbayeva, the interim leader, arrived Friday by helicopter in Osh’s central square in the hope of conveying a sign of stability.

“We have to give hope that we shall restore the city, return all the refugees and create all the conditions for that,” she said, wearing a bulletproof vest.

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Goguelin was in Bazar-Korgon. Associated Press writer Peter Leonard in VLKSM, Kyrgyzstan, and Eliane Engeler in Geneva also contributed to this report.