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

Unchanged Situation

Court acquitted activists detained for opposition to border deal with Uzbekistan; Bishkek signed transport deal with Beijing and Tashkent, and strengthened ties with EU.

Month saw progress and setbacks for freedom of expression. Court in capital Bishkek 14 June acquitted over 20 activists and politicians detained in Oct 2022 for protesting border deal with Uzbekistan, in which govt handed over Kempir-Abad reservoir in return for land. Meanwhile, court hearings for 11 current and former staff from Temirov Line media outlet, detained in Jan for allegedly calling for “mass riots”, began 7 June; watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists 13 June warned that sentencing the journalists “would mark a terrible watershed in a country historically seen as Central Asia’s ‘island of democracy’”. 

Bishkek signed regional economic deal with Uzbekistan and China. Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and China 6 June signed deal on railway project. All three leaders attended ceremony via video link as Beijing’s Minister of Transport said “project demonstrates the common aspiration for cooperation and development shared by the three countries”; President Japarov said project would enhance regional connectivity and economic ties. 

EU and Kyrgyzstan bolstered ties. EU and Kyrgyzstan 25 June signed Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement in Belgian capital Brussels, which EU described as “an important milestone in strengthening bilateral relations”.

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