Uzbekistan is silent about the Boeing 777 downed in Ukraine

The wreckage of the Malaysian Boeing 777 near Torez in the Donetsk region, photo:
Tashkent has kept deathly silent over the deaths of 298 civilians in Ukrainian.

Official websites of the Uzbek Office of the President, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Uzbek embassies in Malaysia, Russia and Ukraine have not released a single statement about the passenger jet which was downed on 17 July.

The Uzbekistan government has not even attempted to express condolences and make a neutral statement about “the need for a a comprehensive and through investigation” into the causes of the accident.

An expert from the Institute Of Strategic and Regional Studies (Russian abbreviation - “ISMRI”) speaking anonymously has explained to what the Uzbek government thinks about this topic and why it is resisting stating its opinion.

“There is no general, official stance on this topic. The majority at the top tend to lean to the explanation supported by the West. However I do not know what the president himself thinks” – says the informant from the ISMRI.

He also made it clear that if Uzbekistan does issue a statement about the causes of the Boeing catastrophe and its investigation, the statement will not be pro-Russian. “Today Tashkent maintains its previous position on the Crimea referendum. As always Tashkent balances itself between the West and Russia, but to support Russia now means to support Ukrainian separatists” – continues our informer.

On March 4 the news agency of the Uzbek Ministry of Foreign Affairs “Jakhon” issued a statement about the situation in Ukraine. In the statement's first paragraph the ministry states its concerns about the threat to Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Uzbekistan is disturbed by the presence of a separatist movement in Ukraine, as there is the potential for a separatist rebellion in Uzbekistan as well.

The main threat for Tashkent is the escalation of separatist ideas in Karakalpakstan, an autonomous republic within Uzbekistan.

“The Crimean separation from Ukraine has stirred up the west of Uzbekistan, where the dream of independence is sleeping, but not altogether dead” – says the expert.

According to him, the Crimean situation has inspired activists of the unofficial party of National Revival “Erkin Karakalpakstan” (“Free Karakalpakstan”), and the potential victory of the rebels at the south-east of Ukraine will give them additional drive.

The last visible action of the “Erkin Karakalpakstan” party happened five-to-six years ago, when they approached the media and international organizations, calling for a referendum on independence for Karakalpakstan from Uzbekistan.

The party's leader, Ernazar Konyratov, expressed in his statement at that time Karakalpak's distress caused by the genocidal policy of Tashkent towards Karakalpakstan.

“The rhetoric of this document and the statements by pro-Russian forces in Ukraine are not exactly the same, however the general direction is similar” – states our informer.

We should also not forget the Samarkand district, populated primary by Tajiks. Dushanbe has hinted a number of times already that Uzbekistan should return this region to Tajikistan.

Revival of the separatist ideal in Karakalpakstan triggered by the situation in Ukraine can inflame similar beliefs not only among Karakalpaks (who are ethnically closer to Kazakhs than to Uzbeks), but also among the Samarkand Tajiks.

“Uzbekistan will never issue a statement which can be interpreted as supportive to separatists in the the Ukrainian south-east. It will not do so, even if faced by a serious cooling in political and economic relations with Russia” – the ISMRI expert confidently states.

Today Tashkent prefers to remain silent because open support for theory of the Boeing disaster issued by Ukraine and supported by the West means placing blame on the “Elder brother” – Russia. Supporting the separatists’ point of view means, however, providing carte blanche to Karakalpak separatists.

“Tashkent will politely remain silent, allowing the involved parties solve their own problems” – says the informer.