Thursday, June 30, 2005
Russia welcomes Uzbek leader
Asserting itself anew in the affairs of a nation formerly under Moscow's control, Russia increased its support on Wednesday for the embattled regime in Uzbekistan, announcing that Russian forces would conduct joint military exercises with the Uzbeks this summer.
The announcement, made by the Russian defense minister, Sergei Ivanov, was broadcast on national television here after Ivanov met with Islam Karimov, the Uzbek president.
The televised remarks were one highlight of a state visit to Moscow by Karimov that underscored the diplomatic difficulties Western governments face as they seek leverage against Uzbekistan after the lethal crackdown in Andijon last month.
Karimov has complicated his relations with the West by withdrawing from contact; diplomats say he has shunned Western officials since the bloodshed.
But he showed a restored comfort level with Moscow. As Western organizations press for an investigation, Karimov on Tuesday was received by President Vladimir Putin and treated as an honored guest. The limited public glimpse of him at Putin's residence suggested how far he has drifted from his former efforts to have relations with the West. The televised portion of the meeting showed him hinting to Putin that the United States was behind the uprising.
Sitting beside Putin, Karimov said the uprising must be considered in context of recent anti-government protests in other former Soviet nations - an apparent reference to demonstrations in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan.
He described these events, according to a transcript prepared by the BBC, as "painstakingly, cleverly and seriously prepared" with "so-called populist pro-democracy street crowds, fed and prepared beforehand."
Radio Free Europe adds:
The Kremlin refrained from commenting on Karimov’s accusations that the West was behind the revolt, but it did support his claims that the revolt had been planned from abroad.
Ivanov told the Uzbek president today that Russia had known about the revolt.
"We, in fact, knew how all this was prepared [the events in Andijon] or at least we knew some of the elements [of the plan]," Ivanov said. "It's quite clear there was an external link. This helped us to take really an objective stance [on the events in Andijon] based on all circumstances of what had happened and [to avoid] any one-sided assessment which has only political considerations."
Putin also told Karimov yesterday that Russia possessed information that militants had crossed from Afghanistan into Uzbekistan. "We confirm the information that militants penetrated from specially prepared bases in Afghanistan. They were concentrating on border territories and this is a fact. Our secret services confirm that.”