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Uzbek President Karimov (file photo)
Moscow, 29 June 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Uzbek President Islam Karimov, who is in Moscow on an official visit, sdaid that last month’s violence in his country was planned from abroad. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov are backing his claims. Karimov has also made thinly-veiled accusations that the West orchestrated the unrest to strengthen its presence in Central Asia.
Karimov has taken advantage of his visit to Moscow to make it clear he views the May uprising in Uzbekistan’s eastern city of Andijon as an “operation” planned from abroad.
During a meeting with Ivanov today, he said the unrest had been carefully organized by people who had experience planning similar revolts in former Soviet countries.
"The events in Andijon were planned in advance and were a very serious, thoroughly prepared operation, to put it accurately," he said. "It is clear that it was prepared in headquarters and centers where there are people who have carried out operations like this before on the territory of both CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States] and other states."
Unrest in Andijon erupted on 13 May, when militants seized a local prison and government headquarters following what many residents described as an unfair trial of local businessmen.
Witnesses and rights group say a demonstration following the attack was violently crushed by government troops. The Uzbek authorities, who blame the attack on terrorists, say 176 people died in the confrontation -- but human rights group have put the death toll at more than 500.
Karimov had made similar declarations during his meeting with the Russian president yesterday. He had linked the Andijon revolt to recent movements that toppled the governments in Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan.
He had then implicitly accused the U.S. Congress, NATO, and the European Parliament of hearing a resolution that he claimed was prepared prior to the unrest and demanded the Uzbek government answer for the violence in Andijon.
“This wittingly-prepared resolution was ready. And of course, imagine: the U.S. Congress would have discussed this resolution and passed the subsequent decisions, the European Parliament would have discussed it, NATO would have discussed it,” he said.
Karimov gave no further details. There have been no previous reports that resolutions were prepared anywhere in anticipation of the Andijon violence and the charge is impossible to independently verify.
This is the first time Karimov, who sees himself as a U.S. ally in the war against terror, has made a direct link between the West and the Andijon events.
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.”
Karimov yesterday once again rejected calls by the West for an international inquiry, saying the Uzbek authorities would complete their own investigation in several months.
At yesterday’s meeting with Putin, he slammed NATO for supporting demands for an international inquiry, accusing it of seeking to increase its influence in Central Asia.
"We are not members of NATO," Karimov said. "So, the question arises: Why is NATO trying to take certain decisions in relation to us? Obviously there is one answer: For some reason they think that we are interested in becoming NATO members, or in partnership with NATO. But listen, we live in [Central] Asia. Look how insistent NATO is about moving towards the territory of the Caucasus, how insistently it's trying to get into or to strengthen its presence in Central Asia."
The Uzbek president said those involved in the uprising would be brought before justice, but vowed the trial would be open to foreign observers and human-rights activists.