New ethnic disturbances broke out on Saturday in Baku, capital of Soviet Azerbaijan, according to reports reaching Moscow as Azerbaijanian officials imposed an apparent news blackout.

"There are dark masses gathering in the streets," an employee of the Azerbaijani Communist Party newspaper Bakinsky Rabochy told Reuters by telephone from Baku.Meanwhile in central Moscow, plainclothesmen dragged off about a dozen young protesters as Soviet police with bullhorns broke up a demonstration.

The demonstrators, brandishing posters reading "Long Live Freedom" and "Down with Tyranny," were members of the opposition Democratic Union.

The Bakinsky Rabochy employee could not immediately confirm reports from Moscow-based human rights monitors of killings as Azerbaijanis armed with knives hunted Armenians.

Vatery Senderov, a human rights monitor with contacts in the area, said several people had been reported killed. He said police were trying to halt the disturbances but had been unable to cope.

If confirmed, the violence would be the second wave of bloodshed to sweep Azerbaijan since February, when rioters in Sumgait, north of Baku, hunted and killed Armenians in three nights of terror. At least 32 people died.

The disorders erupted over the status of Nagorno-Karabakh, an Azerbaijani region populated mainly by ethnic Armenians.