After his election as Kyrgyzstan’s president in October 2017, Sooronbai Jeenbekov inherited an economically uncertain state, which has failed to address more than twenty years of misrule despite emerging from two episodes of upheaval. Central Asia’s only nominal parliamentary democracy, Kyrgyzstan is divided along ethnic and regional lines, deeply corrupt and facing religious radicalisation in absence of a strong state. Crisis Group monitors ethnic and political tensions as well as wider regional relations.

CrisisWatch Kyrgyzstan

Deteriorated Situation

Violence erupted along disputed border with Tajikistan, killing almost 100 people and displacing thousands.

Fierce fighting flared along disputed part of Kyrgyz-Tajik border. Clashes 14 Sept erupted between Kyrgyz and Tajik border guards, killing at least two. Sides exchanged blame for flare-up; Kyrgyz guards accused Tajikistan of assuming military positions on part of border not yet demarcated, while Tajikistan said Kyrgyz guards had opened fire without provocation. President Japarov and Tajik counterpart Emomali Rahmon 16 Sept announced ceasefire agreement on sidelines of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit, said they had ordered troop withdrawal. However, violence same day erupted again, marking deadliest escalation since conflict in April 2021 claimed 55 lives. Sides accused each other of breaching ceasefire and of using heavy weaponry including tanks, rocket artillery and assault drones to attack outposts and nearby settlements. Notably, Tajikistan accused Kyrgyzstan of firing toward Ovchi-Kalacha and Bobojon settlements in Gafurov district, and Vorukh and Chorkuh settlements near Isfara city. Kyrgyz border services, meanwhile, said Tajik forces “renewed gunfire at Kyrgyz border guards’ positions” in Kulundu and Jany-Jer settlements in Leilek district and attacked positions in Batken district, which lies 10km from border, signalling spread of hostilities deeper into Kyrgyzstan. Countries 16 Sept signed second ceasefire, after which sides 16-17 Sept reported sporadic shelling but no major incidents. Hostilities killed around 100 people, including at least 37 civilians. Authorities 18 Sept said they had evacuated 137,000 people from conflict area, 19 Sept said homes in Ak-Sai village (Leilek district) were deliberately burned and pillaged. Tajik authorities same day said civilian homes in Tajikistan were also burned, although there were no reported evacuation efforts.

Moscow urged “peaceful” resolution and offered to help stabilise border. According to Kyrgyz authorities, situation on border 18 Sept remained “tense” but “appeared to be stabilising”. Russian President Putin same day spoke with Tajik and Kyrgyz leaders, urging sides to “prevent further escalation and to take measures to resolve the situation exclusively by peaceful, political and diplomatic means”, highlighting “Russia’s readiness to provide the necessary assistance to ensure stability in the Kyrgyz-Tajik border region”. Both countries 25 Sept reached agreement to demilitarise conflict-affected section of border.

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In The News

13 Oct 2017
If mishandled, [Kyrgyzstan's] election could shatter [the country's] facade of democracy. A fragile stability is at stake. AFP
Deirdre Tynan

Deirdre Tynan

Former Project Director, Central Asia

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