Russia mulls Kyrgyzstan intervention

The Collective Security Treaty Organization, an alliance of former Soviet republics led by Russia, held an emergency meeting in Moscow June 15 on whether to deploy its rapid-reaction forces to conflicted Kyrgyzstan. CSTO secretary general Nikolai Bordyuzha cautioned that “these measures need to be employed after careful consideration and, most importantly, in an integrated manner.” Another senior Russian official, Nikolai Patrushev, said the meeting “did not rule out the use of any means that the CSTO has in its potential, depending on how the situation evolves in Kyrgyzstan.” He said a plan had been drafted for approval by the presidents of the member nations.

Kyrgyzstan’s interim President Roza Otunbayeva meanwhile said the number of dead from the ethnic violence in the country’s south “should be multiplied several times” from the official toll of 176. Southern Kyrgyzstan remains chaotic following days of clashes that spread from the city of Osh to neighboring Jalal-Abad, where scattered fighting is still reported. Bodies lay unclaimed in the streets in both towns, and many homes set on fire during clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks are smoking ruins.

The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR is preparing to airlift aid to Uzbekistan, where some 75,000 ethnic Uzbeks have fled to escape the violence in Kyrgyzstan. Authorities in Uzbekistan are said to be interning the refugees in patrolled camps, and preventing them from leaving to contact friends or relatives in the country. Additionally, the UNHCR places the number of internally-displaced persons (IDPs) within Kyrgyzstan, again mostly ethnic Uzbeks, at 200,000. (Eurasianet, WP, LAT, June 15; IWPR, June 14)

See our last post on Central Asia.

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  1. Kyrgyzstan voters approve new constitution
    Kyrgyzstan’s interim President Roza Otunbayeva announced June 27 that voters approved a new constitution that will allow the interim government to establish a legitimate government through parliamentary elections in the fall. Otunbayeva will remain the acting president through 2011 when elections will be held to determine the next president, scheduled to take office in 2012. Under the new constitution, parliamentary elections will be held every five years, while presidential elections will be held every six years. The office of president will be limited to one six-year term. Otunbayeva indicated the results of the referendum are valid and that the country is now on the path to democracy. The constitution, approved by the interim government in May, shifts power from the president to the prime minister, defines Kyrgyzstan as a secular state and increases the number of seats in parliament from 90 to 120.

    The government of Kyrgyzstan chose to proceed with the elections despite ongoing ethnic violence against the Kyrgyz Uzbek population. Earlier this month, Otunbayeva issued shoot to kill orders to the nation’s military after the reservists were activated and sent to quell the ethnic conflict that has been primarily focused in the southern cities of Osh and Jalal-Abad. The cause of the violence is unclear, but UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay and witnesses have described it as organized. One suggested motivation for the violence was to cause a delay of the referendum by allies of ousted Kyrgyz president Kurmanbek Bakiyev. The interim government has accused the former president’s son of paying $10 million to finance the violence. He was arrested in the UK earlier this month, and the interim government has promised to seek his extradition. Despite the on-going violence, voter turnout for the referendum was reported to be about 65%.

    From Jurist, June 27