Russian news agency Interfax is reporting that Russia is pressing Tajikistan to allow its troops to resume border defense duties in an effort to stem the flow of drugs coming from Afghanistan.
The border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan is long and hard to guard. In some sections, all that separates the two countries in narrow high-walled gullies is a shallow, unfenced and fast-moving river. It is often possible to drive for hours on the barely paved road running alongside the border before coming across any signs of a military presence.
Not surprising, therefore, that Moscow should be applying relentless pressure to be enabled to supplement Tajikistan's tightly stretched frontier forces. But, as one unnamed Tajik source tells Interfax: "Very complex negotiations are under way; Russia wants to return to this geopolitically important southern border of the CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States], but Tajikistan is still cool to the idea."
Reuters cites anonymous security sources and analysts saying Russia may seek to send up to 3,000 border guards to Tajikistan.
Russian border troops left Tajikistan in 2005 in a development that seemed to mark yet another stage of Moscow's gradual strategic withdrawal from the region. But with the drug problem in Russia showing no sign of abating, the emphasis has now moved from broad issues of strategy to more pragmatic areas.
Some articles appearing in Kyrgyzstan's media these days are hateful and obnoxious. But then sometimes there are views that are so barking mad as to tip from intolerant to plain ludicrous. The problem is, in Kyrgyzstan's tense environment, delusion and denial could foment more unrest.
Step forward political "expert" Talant Razzakov, who was interviewed by AKIpress news agency about the independent international report into the ethnic bloodshed in Osh last summer.
Clearly disappointed with not finding enough to be disgruntled with, Razzakov has compromised it by simply concocting patent nonsense about a nebulous first draft of the Kyrgyz Inquiry Commission (KIC) report released May 3.
KIC team leader Kimmo Kiljunen categorically stated that there was no qualification for describing the violence in Osh as a genocide, but Razzakov claims that terminology was in fact used in the initial version of the report: "I have read the first printed version and the main idea was like that. But then members of the commission denied that they had written the report."
Several weeks ago, mere rumors the word had been used by foreigners to describe the tragedy drew a a protest outside the parliament and the UN.
Hundreds of young Uzbeks from Kyrgyzstan are getting into the terrorism business, says Keneshbek Dushebayev, the head of Kyrgyzstan's National Security Service (GKNB). Moreover, they have created yet another new extremist organization, the Islamic Movement of Kyrgyzstan (IMK), he said without providing evidence on April 29.
That the 400 or so would-be terrorists training in camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan are mainly ethnic Uzbeks is a charged assertion in the current climate of rising Kyrgyz nationalism.
Dushebayev says the IMK is a newly set-up group, and there is no evidence of it having appeared in news reports until now. With no real details, the likelihood is that the IMK will simply be added to the alphabet soup of acronyms designating alleged terrorist groups in all their guises, alongside the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), Islamic Movement of Turkmenistan (IMT) and the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU).
Dushebayev has been making ominous warnings about the threat of terrorist violence since last summer’s ethnic bloodletting in southern Kyrgyzstan. At the start of the year, he announced that a group of detained militants had been planning five attacks in the country and predicted that the number of terrorist plots discovered could increase as the investigation proceeded.
Kyrgyzstanlooks more and more like Moscow’s yo-yo.
Petrol prices and concomitant inflation are set to skyrocket again in the poverty-stricken Central Asian country after Moscow suddenly decided yesterday to reimpose a duty on fuel deliveries. The new rate -- about $408/ton, according to 24.kg -- is considerably higher than the one that had been in effect earlier this year, and any meager gains the Kyrgyz economy has experienced in the past few months would be wiped out by the increase, set to start May 1.
Even before this latest blight, the World Bank was warning of Kyrgyzstan’s susceptibility to worldwide inflation, brought on in part by rising petrol and food prices. One bit of good news, a World Bank representative said just today, had been the recent end to these very duties.
So why now? Only a few weeks ago the Kremlin told Prime Minister Almazbek Atambayev that Russia would drop fuel duties, which it had first imposed in April 2010 in a move that helped push former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev out of office. Depending on how you count, this would be the third or fourth time Moscow has imposed duties in the past year or so, only to drop them later.
Kyrgyz news agency 24.kg earlier this week began disclosing portions of an independent international inquiry into the ethnic violence in southern Kyrgyzstan last summer.
On April 29, Russian daily Kommersant followed up with its own story based on a leaked copy of the report. This article repeats much of what came before, but makes a couple of notable departures.
According to the newspaper, the report explains that the interim government that took power after the April 7 unrest only controlled the north of the country. It was thus forced to rely on Uzbeks in the south to squeeze out supporters of ousted President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, a process that culminated in the overtly political unrest in Jalal-Abad in the middle of May. Summarizing the report, Kommersant comments: "So the political confrontation between the new government and supporters of the ousted president turned into an ethnic conflict between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks."
It is this kind of finding that already has some up in arms, like parliamentarian Ismail Isakov. According to 24.kg's accounts of the leaked report, the international investigation criticizes Isakov, who was the interim government's special representative in southern Kyrgyzstan and took over security operations during the unrest, for failing to dispatch forces "with clear orders and rules of engagement."
The Kyrgyz-language newspaper Aykin Sayasat published an outrageous commentary on April 27, titled “Will the ‘Jews’ Leave Us with Nothing?”. Its appearance raises concerns that unchecked bigotry can spur more violence in Kyrgyzstan.
Among the many disturbing aspects to the piece is its use of the pejorative term “жиды” (zhidy), instead of “евреи” (yevrei), to characterize Jews. Beyond that, the article rants that Jews have “over a number of years, and in many different countries, developed anti-state policies.” It also revives a rumor that former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev’s notoriously venal son, Maxim, was Jewish.
It is worth remembering before going into a more thorough discussion of the article’s contents that on April 7, 2010, the day Bakiyev was driven out of Bishkek, anti-Semitic graffiti appeared in the central Ala-Too Square. That same day, a Molotov cocktail was hurled into the country’s only synagogue. In September, that synagogue was again target of an attack – this time attackers launched an explosive device at the building.
Officials in Bishkek have been conspicuously silent on the Aykin Sayasat commentary. Such reticence sharply contrasts to their response to the alleged publication of The Hour of the Jackal, a book they say has been funded by scheming ethnic Uzbeks seeking to incite racial hatred. Kyrgyzstan’s Prosecutor General has even opened a criminal investigation into the matter.
Graced with images of a steelworker, an athlete, OSCE banners and the Astana skyline at night, the Foreign Ministry's book echoes the cover of the American academic's 2002 tome. But inside, where Brill Olcott painted an unflattering view of Kazakhstan and its leaders, the Foreign Ministry has collected articles praising the country's progress since it gained independence in 1991.
A trawl of Almaty bookshops failed to come up with a copy of the book. It's either been very popular or is being reserved as a special Foreign Ministry freebie for distinguished visitors. According to the ministry website, the articles in the book focus on Kazakhstan’s achievements in areas such as nation building and developing a market economy and have been authored by ministers, heads of major international organizations, presidents of companies and -- servile, we assume -- foreign journalists.
As if Kyrgyzstan hasn’t suffered enough bloodshed, the speaker of parliament is pushing for deputies to be allowed to bring their guns to work.
Akmatbek Keldibekov, a leader of the nationalist Ata-Jurt party, has proposed legislation giving him the right to determine which of the deputies can – and which cannot – come packing, local media report. He will base his decision on a written request from each deputy.
The new parliament has already seen its share of violence this year, mostly thanks to Keldibekov’s own party. Co-leader Kamchybek Tashiev is building a reputation for punching his foes. After one of his altercations, officers from the State Committee for National Security (GKNB) seized at least 11 guns, including a Kalashnikov assault rifle, from deputies and their bodyguards.
(Aside: Yes, Joldosheva is the same deputy terrorizing the population with claims that 400,000 copies of a book intended to rekindle ethnic violence in Kyrgyzstan’s volatile south are floating around. She claims to have the only copy in the country, but is ignoring my repeated requests to see it. If you’d like to ask yourself, try calling her publicly listed office number: +996-312-638-576.)
Kyrgyz news agency 24.kg has started leaking portions of the long-awaited independent international inquiry on the ethnic violence in southern Kyrgyzstan last summer. Going by the fragments released thus far, the interim government in charge at the time has not received a very glowing appraisal.
The Kyrgyzstan Inquiry Commission (KIC), headed by Finnish politician Kimmo Kiljunen, reportedly based its findings on interviews with more than 750 witnesses and analysis of around 700 documents and thousands of photos and pieces of video footage. Over 400 people died in the clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbek communities. The majority of the causalities were Uzbeks, who also suffered heavily at the hands of arsonists and looters. The KIC notes that ethnic Kyrgyz also suffered significant losses of life, health and property.
The report charges the interim government, which had been in place for two months prior to the violence, with underestimating the deterioration in interethnic ties. A failure to prepare a contingency plan and properly organize security forces for a surge of unrest comes under particular criticism: "The arguments made by President [Roza] Otunbayeva, that the surge in violence was so extensive that the interim government was unable to contain it, did not exempt the authorities from their primary duty to protect the population."
General Ismail Isakov, who was then the interim government's special representative in southern Kyrgyzstan and took over security operations during the unrest, comes under fire for failing to dispatch forces "with clear orders and rules of engagement."
When a mayor in southern Kyrgyzstan hires "sportsmen" as his advisers, it isn't generally because he is determined to improve the health of his fellow citizens.
Melis Myrzakmatov, the virulently nationalist mayor of Osh, has appointed 15 coaches at local sporting clubs in the city as his advisers, 24.kg news agency reported April 21.
Moreover, Myrzakmatov has given sports clubs about $1,000 each out of the official budget, supposedly to help prepare for the 6th Republican Sports Olympiad to be held in Osh this year. Fifteen sportsmen have also been given cash tokens worth more than $5,100 to pay for university tuition.
Osh was the center of interethnic violence between the Kyrgyz and Uzbek communities last June that left hundreds dead.
24.kg cites Myrzakmatov as noting that despite the tragic events in Osh in 2010, this year will see only peace and serenity, and that fine achievements will be accomplished in the fields of culture, sports and public affairs.