Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 195

Meeting October 3 Luxembourg, the European Union Council of Ministers of Foreign

Affairs voted to impose sanctions against Uzbekistan. They banned the sale of

weapons and military equipment to Tashkent, specifically anything that the army

could use for “internal repressions,” and sought to also reduce and redirect aid

sent to Uzbekistan.

The EU also made the unprecedented decision to unilaterally suspend its “Treaty on

Partnership and Cooperation with Uzbekistan.” Moreover, the heads of the European

foreign ministries stripped Uzbek politicians, called responsible for “extreme,

excessive, and indiscriminate use of force,” of the right to visit the EU. The

sanctions stem from Tashkent’s refusal to cooperate with the EU to investigate the

May events in Andijan, in which anywhere from 187 people (according to the official

version) or over 700 people (according to human rights activists) were killed.

Washington fully endorsed the EU sanctions and froze $20 million in financial aid.

Furthermore, on September 30 a draft resolution to launch a criminal investigation

against Uzbek President Islam Karimov was submitted to the U.S. Congress. The draft,

if approved, would be submitted to the International Criminal Court and could have

quite unpleasant consequences for the Karimov regime. In her recent tour of Central

Asia, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice demonstratively avoided visiting


Before the international moves against Karimov, Belarus under President Alexander

Lukashenka was the only Commonwealth of Independent States member subjected to such

harsh sanctions. Even the President of Turkmenistan, Saparmurat Niyazov, managed to

avoid such a severe rebuke. Now Moscow is moving to fill the vacuum.

At the recent summit in St. Petersburg, Russian officials raised the possibility of

including Uzbekistan into the Eurasian Economic Community.

“Uzbekistan is an agricultural country without access to natural resources and the

Caspian Sea,” said Konstantin Zatulin, director of the CIS Institute and a Russian

Duma deputy. In order to solve its own problems “Tashkent oriented itself toward

Washington for a long time and distanced itself from Russia, but its hopes have not

been justified.”

Uzbekistan has also put in an application to join the CIS Collective Security Treaty

Organization. It had been an original signatory to the CIS Collective Security

Treaty in 1992, but withdrew when the agreement was expanded in 2002 (Argumenty i

fakty, October 12; Novye izvestiya, October 13).

Cooperation with Tashkent would have obvious benefits for Moscow. Uzbekistan is the

most populous country in Central Asia and occupies the geographic center. Uzbekistan

is the only country that borders all five Central Asian states, including

Afghanistan. Moreover, a considerable Uzbek diaspora lives compactly on the

territories adjacent to Uzbekistan. All these factors make Uzbekistan a key player

in the region. Whoever controls Uzbekistan could reasonably influence the situation

in other parts of Central Asia.

However, a partnership with Uzbekistan also has considerable potential drawbacks.

After the Andijan massacre, Tashkent has made clear that it no longer wants to

maintain even a veneer of democracy, and it is deliberately isolating itself from

the world community. As earlier reported by EDM, Uzbek courts ordered the closure of

the offices of Internews, an American organization helping journalists in developing

countries. Uzbek courts also suspended activities by IREX, an American NGO that

conducts student exchanges and provides Internet access (see EDM, October 4). Uzbek

authorities have decided to simply get rid of any problematic non-governmental

organizations (NGOs). More than half of the NGOs registered in Uzbekistan have been

closed under duress. Typically, local security officials invite the heads of

blacklisted NGOs to appear at law-enforcement agencies, at which time they are

“encouraged” to dissolve their organizations “without making noise” (,

October 11).

Shortly after the Andijan uprising, the authorities arrested the well-known human

rights activist Saidjakhan Zainbidinov and radio correspondent Nosir Zakir. Elena

Uralaeva, a human-rights activist based in Tashkent, has been committed to an insane

asylum. In recent weeks, Mutobar Tadjibaeva, a prominent human-rights activist from

Fergana, was also placed under arrest. “It is simply impossible for independent

journalists and human rights activists to work after the Andijan events. They have

all practically either left Uzbekistan or are about to do so,” Tulkin Karaev, a

human-rights activist and journalist from in southern Uzbekistan, told


Since the Andijan events, Uzbekistan has deteriorated into a model totalitarian

state along the lines of Turkmenistan. Moscow’s interest in supporting a

demonstratively totalitarian regime might harm Russia’s international image. But so

far, that is a risk Moscow seems willing to bear.