On July 23 Kyrgyz officials stated that an Uzbek border guard has been killed in an exchange of fire between Uzbek en Kyrgyz border patrols. Another Uzbek guard has been injured. There were no casualties on the Kyrgyz side.
According to an official Kyrgyz press release, the Uzbek border guards illegally crossed the border, and refused commands to go back. According to the statement an argument broke out between the two countries’ border guards, which led to an exchange of fire.
Shootings at the border between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan occur periodically, and often occur after the theft of animals such as horses, cattle and sheep. Last month, a Kyrgyz woman was killed by Uzbek border guards.
Tensions between the two countries are high, with Kyrgyzstan being suspicious of its powerful neighbor, which frequently shows evidence of ambitions to grow to the status of a regional superpower. Because the border between the two countries is porous, Islamic radicals from Uzbekistan frequently cross the border with Kyrgyzstan to plan attacks on the Uzbek government. Partly as a result of this, Uzbek security forces and border guards regularly operate across the border, without prior permission, which sometimes results in fighting with Kyrgyz border guards.
Furthermore, tensions between energy and water supplies between the countries are a major factor in the relations between the two. Uzbekistan is an important provider for Kyrgyz’ energy demands, but has increased the price of it significantly in the past few years. Kyrgyzstan, which tries to limit the impact of these increases, has ambitious plans to develop hydroelectric plants, which in turn has a major impact on Uzbek agriculture, which suffers from a lack of water in the summer and an overflow of water in the winter.
On July 15, a recent piece in Uzbekistan’s state sanctioned 12news.uz advocated joining the NATO, and taking over most of the rest of Eurasia. It was taken down shortly after it had been published. It stated that: ‘Contemporary Uzbekistan, as a legal successor to the Kokand khanate, has the full right to territorial claims on the entire republic of Kyrgyzstan.’