Azerbaijani militants yesterday blocked Soviet troops flown to the southern republic to try to halt mounting turmoil, described by officials as virtual civil war. Spokesmen for the Interior Ministry in Moscow and for a new Azerbaijani ``National Defense Council'' in Baku, the republic's capital, said the militants were blocking exits from military airfields and the approaches to cities and towns.
Earlier, Defense Minister Dmitri Yazov described the fierce fighting between Azerbaijanis and Armenians on the Soviet Union's southern borders with Iran and Turkey as a ``major disaster'' and said Army reservists were being mobilized. General Yazov told Soviet radio that ``in order to ensure order, we are compelled to bring up to wartime strength'' some units in neighboring regions. He did not say how many troops were being called up or exactly where.
At least 66 people have been killed and more than 200 wounded. On Tuesday, more than 11,000 troops were dispatched to Azerbaijan to quell the violence.
President Mikhail Gorbachev told a conference on perestroika (restructuring) that the turmoil in Azerbaijan had accumulated over centuries, prompting the Kremlin to resort to force. Mr. Gorbachev also referred to unrest in other parts of the country, citing pro-independence movements in the Baltic republics and unrest in the southwestern republic of Moldavia.
``All this disturbs us and we are now engaged in stopping this process from deepening further and becoming aggravated,'' Gorbachev told the meeting.