Border clashes between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan: 24 killed in latest fighting in former Soviet Union

The two small, landlocked and impoverished nations have accused each other of resuming fighting in a disputed area despite a ceasefire agreement.

The Kyrgyz border administration said in a statement that its forces continue to repel the Tajik attacks.

“From the Tajik side, the bombing of the positions of the Kyrgyz side continues, and in some areas fierce battles are taking place,” she added.

The Kyrgyzstan Ministry of Health later said that 24 citizens were killed and 87 wounded, the Russian Interfax news agency reported. She did not mention the number of casualties from the army.

The Russian news agency quoted Kamchebek Tashiev, head of the National Security Committee of Kyrgyzstan, as saying that the military losses were significant.

“The situation is difficult and as for what will happen tomorrow, no one can give any guarantees,” he said.

The Kyrgyz Emergencies Ministry said more than 136,000 civilians had been evacuated from the conflict zone, according to Interfax.

Gabarov’s office said Kyrgyz President Sadir Gabarov and his Tajik counterpart Emomali Rahmon agreed earlier today to order a ceasefire and troop withdrawal during a regional summit in Uzbekistan.

Kyrgyzstan reported fighting in the southern Batkin region, which borders Tajikistan’s northern Sughd region and includes a Tajik region called Vorokh. The area itself is known for its enigmatic political and ethnic geography, and became the site of similar hostilities last year, which also led to war.

Clashes at poorly demarcated borders are frequent, but usually decline rapidly.

Soviet legacy

Central Asian border issues stem largely from the Soviet era when Moscow attempted to divide the region between groups whose settlements were often located amidst those of other races.

Both countries host Russian military bases. Moscow called earlier on Friday for a cessation of hostilities.

The clashes come at a time when Russian forces are fighting in Ukraine and a new ceasefire appears to be in place between former Soviet states Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Kyrgyzstan said that Tajik forces, using tanks, armored personnel carriers, and mortars, entered at least one Kyrgyz village and bombed the airport of the Kyrgyz town of Batkin and nearby areas.

In turn, Tajikistan accused the Kyrgyz forces of bombing a site and seven villages with “heavy weapons”.

Timur Umarov, a fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said remote villages in the middle of the conflict were not of economic importance, but both sides gave them an exaggerated political importance.

Umarov said that the two governments had become dependent on what he called “populist and nationalist rhetoric” that made land swaps to end the conflict impossible.

Alexander Knyazev, another Central Asia analyst, said the two sides had shown no desire to resolve the conflict peacefully, and that mutual territorial claims had provoked hostile attitudes at all levels.

He said only third-party peacekeepers could prevent further conflicts by creating a demilitarized zone.

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