Violence along the Kyrgyz-Tajik border left 60 wounded in what has been described as an even worse flare up than a violent clash in March that left at least 25 individuals injured. The most recent incident appears to have arisen as ethnic groups in the Kyrgyz-Tajik border region grew increasingly vocal in their dislike of one another and clashed near the Tajik village of Hoja-Alo. The latest skirmish was at first limited to a harsh exchange of words, but rival villages soon began to shower each other with stones and attack each other using homemade weapons. Law enforcement officials from both sides were unable to efficiently put an end to the violence through traditional means, or by firing their weapons into the air.
It is unclear which side was the instigator of the violence, as, predictably, both have been quick to point fingers and blame the other for stirring up trouble. Kyrgyz media has labeled the clash as an act of Tajik aggression, and says that Tajik villagers went as far as to burn Kyrgyz vehicles and destroy Kyrgyz property, including a gas station. Tajik media has issued similar reports, stating the Kyrgyz were to blame for elevating a verbal confrontation to a violent one, and also of escalating the violence from the throwing of stones to the use of hunting rifles.
It remains unknown whether or not the angry villagers have dispersed, though it’s likely that, given reports of ongoing tension, that Kyrgyz villagers are still blocking routes to the Tajik exclave of Vorukh and have begun to mass anew near the border. Tensions between the two states have a risen to a level few expected given the countries’ history of relatively amicable relations marked by bilateral trade, and now threaten to jeopardize an existing agreement forged back in January to establish demarcation agreements along their shared border.
- President of Kyrgyzstan Almazek Atambaev arrived in Moscow on May 7 to discuss joining the Customs Union. This is likely to discuss the new majority leadership in the Kyrgyz Parliament – Prime Minister Joomart Otorbaev has said that his government is now seeking to postpone Kyrgyzstan’s membership, adding that the road map for absorption into the Customs Union was not ready yet. Otorbaev confirmed that once a plan was approved by Parliament and formally adopted, it would then progress to obtain approval by the Customs Union itself.
- While in the short term, disruption of Russian, Kazakh, and Turkmen gas flowing through Ukraine has hurt their economies, experts such as executive chairman of Tethys Petroleum David Robson believe that overall there is little doubt that Russia will remain the primary gas exporter to Europe. Recent deals with China, he added, point to a hedging of bets in the case of a shift over to US-exported LNG in several years. Robson believes that Central Asia has the potential to be the cheapest source of gas to Europe, China, and India – backing up his claim with data from the latest BP statistical review – Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan together have 19.9 trillion cubic meters of proven gas reserves. While Russia still maintains significantly more at 32.9 trillion cubic meters, this increasing Central Asian share may prove to be crucial in deciding who gets the contracts to supply developing nations in Asia.
- President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan visited Badakhasan and Aab Bareek outside of Mazar-i-Sharif yesterday in an attempt to quell local anger about the slow delivery of emergency aid. 4,000 villagers were displaced by last weekend’s landslide disaster, with up to 2,000 dead or missing and 300 buildings buried under hundreds of feet of mud.
- Pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine ignored the Russian President’s calls to postpone a referendum on self-rule, despite warnings that it could trigger a full-scale civil war within Ukraine. The announcement is in severe contradistinction to Putin’s conciliatory tone yesterday when he called on separatists to peacefully set a later date for referendum. Denis Pushilin, leader of the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic, said that “civil war has already begun. The referendum can put a stop to it and start a political process.”
- Sabiri’s Jamaat, a Central Asian jihadist group based in Syria composed of Uzbeks, Tajiks, and Russians in the Caucuses region swore allegiance to ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham). Sabiri’s Jamaat is currently headed by a figure known as “Khalid ad-Dagestani,” a self-styled jihadist who took over when the previous emir Abdullo Tashkenti was killed earlier this year. Pictures of the group taken by journalists within Syria show that the group is at least 70 fighters strong, and represents one of the more significantly organized Central Asian jihadist groups operating in Syria today.