Number of dead in border dispute in Central Asia increases

Bishkek/Dushanbe (dpa) – The number of dead has continued to rise in the heavy fighting in the border dispute between the two ex-Soviet republics of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan in Central Asia. So far, 46 bodies and around 140 injuries have been registered, said the Ministry of Health in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek on Sunday. Previously there was talk of 36 dead and 130 injured.

The government in authoritarian Tajikistan has now given the number of deaths for the first time: Since Wednesday, more than 35 citizens have been killed, including women and children. According to both sides, the situation on the contested border remains extremely tense.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union more than 30 years ago, the two countries have been at odds at numerous points over the course of the approximately 1,000-kilometer border. Battles flare up again and again. According to the civil defense in Bishkek, around 137,000 people had to be brought to safety on the Kyrgyz side. In several places, collections of relief supplies were made to get the humanitarian situation under control. One focus of the fighting was around the Kyrgyz border town of Batken.

The high mountain countries bordering China blame each other for the escalation. Ceasefires were agreed again and again, which were broken a little later. Heavy artillery, attack helicopters and drones are said to be deployed in the region. Uniformed and civilians died. A reporter from the German Press Agency in the Tajik capital Dushanbe reported that this time quiet border regions were also fought over for a long time.

After talks with UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Saturday, Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Jeenbek Kulubayev said that Bishkek was merely defending itself. There is serious damage to infrastructure, including schools. Guterres also wants to exchange views on the situation with Kyrgyz President Sadyr Schaparov on Tuesday in New York on the fringes of the UN General Assembly – and with the Tajik side, it said.

According to the Kremlin, Russian President Vladimir Putin called on his counterparts in a phone call on Sunday to settle the conflict peacefully. At the same time he offered support.

Conflicts that have been smoldering for years have also recently escalated in other regions of the post-Soviet space. A few days ago, for example, Azerbaijan attacked its neighbor Armenia in the South Caucasus. Observers fear that such tensions will increase because Russia, which actually has a strong military presence in the entire region, is currently waging war against Ukraine.

© dpa-infocom, dpa:220918-99-806994/3

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