Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 188

For the first time after seven weeks of hostilities in southern Kyrgyzstan, President Askar Akaev visited the Osh Region on October 9. In the town of Batken–center of the eponymous district, which forms the main theater of operations–Akaev addressed army and interior troops, local residents and refugees from the combat zone. The president reaffirmed that the release of the hostages represents the government’s top priority. Once that is accomplished, the troops will either destroy the rebels or “chase them beyond the border.” The latter possibility suggests yet again that Kyrgyzstan would be content to shove the problem back into the lap of Tajikistan.

Akaev outlined a plan to detach four border districts–Batken, Choi-Alan, Kalamjai and Lailak–from the Osh Region and form them into a new administrative unit on a region’s level. That new unit would enjoy special treatment from the central government in terms of tax breaks and investment funds, with a view to fostering loyalty to the state among the population. Akaev, furthermore, unveiled a military plan to create no fewer than seventy border posts on the hitherto unguarded Kyrgyz-Tajik border, which is 470 kilometers long. He did not cite the source of financing or of manpower for such a plan, which would seem to surpass Kyrgyzstan’s own possibilities.

Russian assistance of any significance has yet to materialize. Almost two weeks ago, Kyrgyz officials contradicted each other when asked to confirm or deny the reported arrival of a first planeload of Russian equipment. On October 8, Akaev’s chief spokesman Kanabek Imanaliev reported that “the first” planeload was due to land on that day. Kyrgyzstan has requested Russian equipment in most urgent terms since late August. The long and unexplained delay confirms the hypothesis that Moscow is content to allow the rebellion to simmer–albeit in a localized and controllable state–as a way of exploiting the crisis in its own interest (Itar-Tass, KyrgyzHabar, Bishkek Television, AP, October 8-11; see the Monitor, August 24-31, September 1,3,7,9,14,21,24,29, October 5, and the Fortnight in Review, September 24).

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