Kyrgyzstan reports ‘intense battles’ with Tajikistan along disputed border despite ceasefire agreement.
Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have accused each other of breaching a ceasefire intended to end deadly border clashes in a disputed area.
Kyrgyzstan reported “intense battles” with Tajikistan and said its neighbour was moving forces and equipment to the border.
In a statement on Friday, 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.
A Tajikistan government news portal, citing its border guard service, said Kyrgyz forces were reinforcing their positions and had opened fire on three border villages.
Clashes erupted earlier this week, with two Tajik officials killed and six soldiers and five civilians injured. On the Kyrgyz side, two soldiers and two civilians were reported injured.
Kamchybek Tashiev, the head of the Kyrgyz state committee on national security, was quoted by Russia’s RIA news agency as saying military casualties had been high.
“The situation is difficult and as for what will happen tomorrow – no one can give any guarantees,” he said. Thousands of people have already been forced to evacuate.
Earlier in the day, Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov and his Tajik counterpart Emomali Rahmon agreed to order a ceasefire and troop pullback at a regional summit in Uzbekistan, Japarov’s office said.
Russia offers to mediate
Kyrgyzstan reported fighting in its southern Batken province which borders Tajikistan’s northern Sughd region and features a Tajik exclave, Vorukh, which has been a hotspot in recent conflicts.
The same area became the site of similar hostilities last year, also nearly leading to a war. Clashes over the poorly demarcated border are frequent, but usually de-escalate quickly. More than one-third of the 1,000km (600-mile) border remains disputed.
Both countries host Russian military bases. Earlier on Friday, Moscow called for “urgent” measures to halt the fighting.
Russia’s foreign ministry offered to hold talks with the countries, urging both sides to take “urgent measures” to find a political solution.
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.
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, Russia’s RIA news agency cited the Red Cross as saying.
In turn, Tajikistan accused Kyrgyz forces of shelling an outpost and seven villages with “heavy weaponry”.