Kyrgyzstan’s Border Guards confirmed restarting fighting with Tajikistan on Friday evening. Despite the earlier ceasefire, both sides exchanged fire and the conflict escalated anew.
Kyrgyzstan reported “intense battles” with Tajikistan and said its neighbour was moving forces and equipment to the border in the latest outbreak of violence to hit the former Soviet Union republics. Both the small impoverished landlocked nations have accused each other of restarting fighting in a disputed area.
In a statement, the Kyrgyz border service said its forces were continuing to repel Tajik attacks.
“From the Tajik side, shelling of the positions of the Kyrgyz side continues, and in some areas, intense battles are going on,” it said.
Kyrgyzstan has said that Tajik forces using tanks, armoured personnel carriers and mortars entered at least one Kyrgyz village and shelled the airport of the Kyrgyz town of Batken and adjacent areas. About 18,500 people have already left the area. It is estimated that 17 people, including 11 Kyrgyz border guards, had been killed.
Earlier in the day Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov and his Tajik counterpart Emomali Rakhmon agreed to order a ceasefire and troop pullback at a regional summit in Uzbekistan.
Border issues in Central Asia stem to a large extent from the Soviet era when Moscow tried to divide the region between ethnic groups whose settlements were often located amidst those of other ethnicities.
Both countries host Russian military bases. Earlier on Friday, Moscow urged a cessation of hostilities. The clashes come at a time when Russian troops are fighting in Ukraine and a new ceasefire appears to be holding between former Soviet states Armenia and Azerbaijan.
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