The Kremlin ordered troops to Moldavia Saturday to try to prevent ethnic violence between Moldavian youths and a Turkish Christian minority demanding independence, Tass reported.

Negotiations continued Saturday with the republic's Gagauz minority, but no progress was reported, the official news agency said.A day earlier, the republic declared a state of emergency in part of southern Moldavia.

The situation is "highly tense and fraught with unpredictable consequences," the national government said in a statement reported by Tass. It said it was sending troops in to "increase security" in the republic.

The Kremlin also said the troops were going in at the request of the Moldavian government and representatives of the Gagauz people. It did not say how many troops were sent.

The Gagauz, descendants of 19th century Turkish immigrants, have declared sovereignty from Moldavia - which is itself trying to break free of the Soviet Union.

The unrest was the latest to flare in the Soviet Union's ethnic and nationalist conflicts.

It could further complicate President Mikhail S. Gorbachev's effort to hold the country together.