Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan border dispute: Putin calls for de-escalation as death toll nears 100

The former Soviet republics clashed over a border dispute from September 14-16, accusing each other of using tanks, mortars, rockets and assault drones to attack outposts and settlements neighbours.

Both countries border China, while Tajikistan also has a long border with it afghanistan.

Long stretches of the border separating the two ex-Soviet states are disputed. The April 2021 clashes left more than 50 dead and raised the prospect of a wider conflict.

Border issues in Central Asia largely date back to the Soviet era, when Moscow attempted to divide the region between groups often settled among other ethnicities.

On Sunday evening, Kyrgyzstan reported 13 more dead in the fighting, adding to an earlier toll of 46. The former Soviet state also said 102 people had been injured.

Earlier, Kyrgyzstan said it had evacuated around 137,000 people from the conflict zone. The government declared Monday a day of mourning for the victims.

Kyrgyz media, which characterized the conflict as an invasion, reported on Sunday that some of those evacuated had already started returning home.

Tajikistan reported on Sunday that 35 people had been killed. He reported no mass evacuations.

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Tajikistan’s Foreign Ministry said Kyrgyzstan was continuing a media campaign against it and noted that Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov used the term “enemy” to refer to Tajikistan in his speech on Saturday.

On September 16, the two sides agreed to a ceasefire, which largely held firm despite several alleged incidents of shelling.

Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke by telephone with Japarov and veteran Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon on Sunday, the Kremlin said.

Putin urged the parties to prevent further escalation and take steps to resolve the situation “exclusively through peaceful, political and diplomatic means as soon as possible”, offering assistance, his office said in a statement.