CENTRAL ASIA Central Asia, caution over Russian war against Ukraine

The hardest with the Kremlin are the Kazakhs. Turkmenistan is the most aligned with Moscow’s positions. Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are the most cautious. Everyone stands by, unsure whether to realign with the old masters or join the new divisions.

Moscow () – One year after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a Currenttime investigation has tried to shed light on the positions taken on the matter by the ex-Soviet countries of Central Asia. None of them really support Moscow’s “special operation”, but neither have they condemned it, maintaining a deliberately sharp neutrality. The war puts the Central Asian regimes in an uncomfortable position as they have always been closely linked to Russia, but they are terrified of being punished by Western sanctions in turn.

The first information after the start of hostilities concerns Uzbek President Šavkat Mirziyoyev, who spoke by phone with Putin on February 25, 2022. The press offices of both countries reported the conversation differently: according to the Kremlin, Uzbekistan had a “sympathetic” attitude towards the motivations of the Russians, while Tashkent stressed its neutrality in relation to Russia and Ukraine. A year later, the position of the Uzbeks has not officially changed, and at the same time as calling to lay down their arms, they refuse to recognize the republics annexed by Moscow in Ukraine.

The Russian press speculated in various ways about the reactions of Kyrgyzstan when, after a telephone call from Sadyr Žaparov to Putin, the RIA Novosti news agency reported that Bishkek somehow supported the action in Ukraine. Žaparov’s press secretary had to clarify that the Kyrgyz are in favor of a peaceful solution to the conflict. But in April the president of Kyrgyzstan spoke explicitly of “war”, a term prohibited by the Kremlin.

The Bishkek authorities have also repeatedly prevented peace demonstrations in front of the Russian embassy and have not protested the forced recruitment of many Kyrgyz residents in Russia, especially those in concentration camps. Even Žaparov allowed himself a pro-Putin phrase, stating that “perhaps it was the only way to defend the peaceful population on the territory of Donbass.”

The most courageous position has been that of Kazakhstan, in which the echoes of Russian-Kazakh tensions over the status of the northern territories are perceived, which, like the eastern regions of Ukraine, the Russians consider “their own land”. . A week after the invasion, President Kasym-Žomart Tokaev invited Russians and Ukrainians to the negotiating table. From Astana, the territorial integrity of Ukraine has been repeatedly defended, always using the term “war” and refusing to recognize the annexation of Crimea, even with a direct confrontation between Tokaev and Putin in Saint Petersburg. The last cause of friction was the “yurt of unshakability” of Bucha and kyiv, which angered the Russians.

A week after the invasion, the first statements from Tajikistan came from the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sirodžiddin Mukhriddin, predicting a quick cessation of hostilities. For the rest, only Dushanbe’s opposition to the participation of Tajik citizens in the war, both those residing in Russia and Ukraine, was expressed.

Turkmenistan almost never expresses itself officially on foreign policy issues, maintaining a line of absolute neutrality for decades. However, the local press suggests that Ashgabat is more on the side of Russia. For example, Turkmen journalists from Radio Svoboda reported that at meetings of government officials the West is accused of having provoked the war in Ukraine. During an OSCE meeting in December, Turkmenistan’s representative, Khemr Amannazarov, ostensibly left the room as Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba began his remarks, returning after he had finished.

Beyond the official positions on the war, what will carry more weight will be the economic effects, from the massive arrival of Russian fugitives to the corridors to circumvent the sanctions, and at this moment it is difficult to assess the long-term consequences of these events. . Everyone stands by, unsure whether to realign with the old masters or join the new divisions.

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