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Putin urges Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan to prevent further escalation, resolve differences through peaceful means

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Russian President Vladimir Putin (File photo by TASS news agency)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has urged Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to refrain from further escalation following recent deadly clashes on the border between the two neighboring countries, calling on both sides to settle their disputes through peaceful diplomatic means.

Putin made the remarks on Sunday as he spoke on the phone with leaders of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan about the situation on the Kyrgyz-Tajik border, where border clashes erupted on Wednesday between the two countries.

“Vladimir Putin called on the parties to prevent further escalation and take steps to resolve the situation as soon as possible by exclusively peaceful, political and diplomatic means,” the Kremlin said in a statement.

He also “confirmed Russia’s readiness to provide the necessary assistance to ensure stability in the Kyrgyz-Tajik border region,” it added.

Armed clashes regularly flare up between the two countries, which share a 970-kilometer border, about half of which is contested.

On September 14, a conflict erupted between the two estranged neighbors as both sides blamed each other for the violence. Kyrgyzstan’s President Sadyr Japarov and his Tajik counterpart, Emomali Rahmon, reached a ceasefire agreement on Friday.

However, Kyrgyzstan’s border guard service said “violent clashes” broke out “along the entire perimeter of the Kyrgyz-Tajik border in the Batken region” after the agreement took effect.

The Kyrgyz side accused Tajikistan of using heavy weapons, including rocket launchers and jets, but said its forces were repelling the attacks “making it impossible for them to capture settlements in Kyrgyzstan.”

Tajikistan also accused Kyrgyz forces of shelling one of its outposts and seven villages with “heavy weaponry.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry has repeated an offer to oversee peace talks between the two former Soviet republics and urged them to negotiate an end to the dispute.

Death toll rises to 81

Meanwhile, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan said on Sunday the death toll from their border conflict had risen to 81 people.

Kyrgyzstan reported 46 deaths from the earlier fighting, adding that it had evacuated about 137,000 people from the conflict area. The government also declared Sept. 19 a day of mourning for the victims.

Tajikistan also reported its casualties, saying 35 people were killed. It has not reported any mass evacuations from the area.

The border skirmishes between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan occur intermittently and their intensity decreases quickly.

A border conflict began between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan on April 28, 2021, when at least 55 people were killed and more than 40,000 civilians were displaced.

Both countries share close ties with Moscow.

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