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Semyon Uralov tells how to solve border problem of Kyrgyzstan once for all

Semyon Uralov, a Russian expert on Central Asia, editor-in-chief of the Research Center for Integration Problems of the Eurasian Economic Union «Union Narrative 2050», told 24.kg news agency about ways to get out of the border conflict that took place on April 28, 2021 between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

«I am on the side of our Kyrgyz partners in this conflict. In such a situation, a stronger neighbor should be wiser. But Dushanbe took advantage of the change of power in Bishkek and the growing crisis,» Semyon Uralov said.

According to him, there are no such problems with the government in Tajikistan, they have a specific, but still control over the state.

Answering the question whether the last incident at the Kyrgyz-Tajik border had any common features with similar clashes that took place in previous years, the expert noted: all border conflicts are similar to each other.

«The crises of border conflicts began after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Until 1991, the borders of the republics were administrative, not state ones. We saw what is the transformation of an administrative border into a state one on the example of today’s Belarus, when its border with Russia was closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. In pre-coronavirus times, the border between the states was the same as in the USSR, that is, very conditional. Therefore, when it became necessary to determine the state borders of the republics that gained independence, conflicts arose. In general, the border problem is characteristic of the entire post-Soviet space,» Semyon Uralov said.

The root cause of the conflict on the border between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan was two smuggling streams that move from north to south and from south to north. The first route is fuels and lubricants, which Kyrgyzstan receives at discounted prices from Russia and which are smuggled by private individuals to Tajikistan for sale. The second is drug trafficking, which starts in Afghanistan and ends in large Russian cities.

Semyon Uralov

The expert also answered the question how Moscow reacted to the conflict between the two CSTO members.

«The only subject that is fully interested in the transparency of the border is Russia, because we do not need both drug trafficking and smuggling of fuels and lubricants. On the one hand, Russia needs control over the border. On the other hand, it is important for Russia that Kyrgyzstan does not conflict with Tajikistan,» he said.

Semyon Uralov stressed that both Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are allies in the CSTO.

«Kyrgyzstan is a closer partner, as it is a member of the EAEU. Therefore, in the past conflict, Russia took a restrained position. In theory, one could involve peacekeepers or provide a platform for negotiations. But nobody turned to Russia for help. This surprised me a lot,» the expert said.

I believe that as soon as the first shots were fired, lobbyists from Kyrgyzstan should have explained what was happening and asked for support in Moscow. If this was not done, it means either they did not consider the situation so critical, or there are people in Bishkek and Dushanbe who are interested in keeping smuggling at the border.

According to Semyon Uralov, the problem, of course, must be solved.

«I repeat, I am on the side of our Kyrgyz partners in this conflict. A strong neighbor should be wiser. I have said five years ago — it is necessary to create an allied army group, who can, among other things, guard the borders. Because when it appears, no one will dare to behave like that with Kyrgyzstan — neither Tajikistan, nor Uzbekistan, nor China. Because then they will be at war with Russia. This is what saved Belarus in August 2020, when the Polacks could cross the border. The country was saved because it had rear support,» he concluded.

In total, 190 Kyrgyzstanis suffered in the border conflict, 36 people were killed, including children. More than 40,000 people have been evacuated from the conflict zone.

The governments of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan published text of a joint statement on resolving the border issue yesterday.