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Kyrgyz Say Kazakhs Tighten Border Amid Election Tensions


BISHKEK -- Kyrgyz authorities say Kazakhstan has tightened control along the border between the Central Asian neighbors amid tension over the October 15 presidential election in Kyrgyzstan.

Kyrgyzstan's State Border Service told RFE/RL on October 11 that long lines of automobiles and people formed near several checkpoints as Kazakh authorities appeared to step up checks and slow the pace of passage across the border as of October 10.

There has been no official comment from Kazakh authorities on the situation, which developed days after Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev publicly accused the Kazakh authorities of "meddling in Kyrgyzstan's internal affairs."

On October 7, Atambaev accused Kazakhstan of interfering in the election campaign by openly supporting Omurbek Babanov, who is facing off against ruling party candidate Sooronbai Jeenbekov and 13 others in the vote.

Atambaev also criticized Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev , who has been in power since the Soviet era, over his long rule.

Nazarbaev sparked anger in the Kyrgyz government by meeting on September 19 with Babanov, who is seen as a front-runner along with Jeenbekov.

Atambaev is constitutionally barred from seeking a second term and has publicly supported Jeenbekov, who stepped down as prime minister in August to run for president.

On October 10, Kazakh Prime Minister Baqytzhan Saghyntaev rejected the Kyrgyz claims of interference, calling them "groundless."

Speaking before the border trouble began, Saghyntaev said that "all of Kyrgyzstan's aviation, railway, and automobile routes go out via Kazakhstan, and we have never imposed any restrictions on them."

Some in Kyrgyzstan -- which also borders China, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan and is separated from Russia by its much larger northern neighbor Kazakhstan, believe that was a signal presaging tighter control over the border.

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