Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan border conflict: Putin calls for de-escalation as death toll nears 100


Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan said Sunday that nearly 100 people had been killed in their border conflict, as a fragile ceasefire between the Central Asian nations extended into a second day and mutual ally Russia called for a de-escalation.

The former Soviet republics clashed over a border dispute between September 14 and 16, accusing each other of using tanks, mortars, rocket artillery and attack drones to attack outposts and nearby settlements.

Both countries share a border with China, and Tajikistan also shares a long border with Afghanistan.

The long border separating the two former Soviet states is disputed. Clashes in April 2021 resulted in more than 50 deaths and raised the possibility of a wider conflict.

Border issues in Central Asia largely date back to the Soviet era, when Moscow tried to divide the region between other ethnic groups that were often settled.

Kyrgyzstan late Sunday reported 13 more deaths from fighting, adding to the earlier toll of 46. The former Soviet state also said 102 people were injured.

Earlier, Kyrgyzstan said it had evacuated around 137,000 people from the conflict zone. The government declared Monday a day of mourning for the victims.

Kyrgyz media, which described the conflict as an invasion, reported on Sunday that some evacuees have already started returning to their homes.

Tajikistan reported on Sunday that 35 people had been killed. No mass evacuation has been reported.

Tajikistan’s foreign ministry said Kyrgyzstan was continuing its campaign against the media and noted that Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov had used the term “enemy” to refer to Tajikistan in a speech on Saturday.

On September 16, the two sides agreed to a cease-fire, which, to a large extent, has held despite several alleged incidents of bombing.

Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke by phone with Japarov and veteran Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon on Sunday, the Kremlin said.

Putin called on the sides to avoid further escalation and to take measures to resolve the situation “exclusively through peaceful, political and diplomatic means as soon as possible”, offering assistance, his office said in a statement.