President Vladimir Putin: Dear Islam Abduganievich, allow me to wish you a warm welcome. I would like to thank you for accepting the invitation and coming here. We scheduled this meeting a long time ago, and it is good that it will be an especially business-like, work meeting – less protocol and more specific work.
First of all I would like to note that our trade turnover and economic ties are growing at a good rate. Yearly growth is at least 25% of more. Russian investments in the Uzbekistan economy are growing, and in several areas: in energy, and in light industry. There are very promising plans and project which will undoubtedly be of benefit for both Russia and Uzbekistan.
Of course, I would like to discuss the situation in the world and Central Asia with you. We have spoken on the telephone several times and exchanged letters on the tragic events in Uzbekistan. We are glad that the situation is becoming normal, and wish the leadership of Uzbekistan and the Uzbek people a swift stabilisation of the situation. We are happy that it was possible to take the situation under control, and hope that it will only become strengthened.
Quite recently we met here with our colleagues in the framework of the Collective Security Treaty, and our friends from neighbouring countries were also there. We discussed the situation in the region in general and in each member country of the Collective Security Treaty. On my part I would like to inform you about the nature and contents of this discussion in detail.
I think that in the near future it will be possible to discuss all these problems in a wider group, and also on other problems of world politics, as there will soon be a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. At any rate, this is a good opportunity to compare notes in all areas.
Islam Karimov: First of all I would like to thank you for the invitation. And I would like to stress once more that I am happy to see you, this is not the first time I have been in this hall, and you could say that I feel quite comfortable here. Of course you are right that the events surrounding us and in our bilateral relations are developing so quickly. Their dynamic has increased so much that we have a large list of both bilateral and multilateral issues, which requires discussions, exchange of opinions and development of new decisions to make our relations more effective and productive, which is what our peoples and nations want.
Of course, the list of issues of an economic nature, of a humanitarian and military and technical nature, in short everything that fits in with the norms of strategic cooperation, come under the treaty which we value highly signed a year ago in Tashkent on strategic partnership between Russia and Uzbekistan. Essentially, it is not just a major document, it also means a great deal for us. I would like to stress this once more in the presence of journalists.
If I didn’t talk about what concerns us, security issues, if I didn’t talk about what happened quite recently in Andijan, then of course I would be acting deviously and avoiding the questions which every journalist present here has for me. I mean what is currently known as the succession of “colour” revolutions, or some other name. But the issue is not what these revolutions are called. In one place they are called tulip, in another orange, in another place they have some other name. But this is not the issue. The issue is that these events – and I would call them “operations” (if we are speaking plainly) – are carried out so impudently and without punishment on the territory of the CIS, and not just there. So it is natural that people, including those who live in Uzbekistan, have many questions about this. There are many questions to which the investigation – it is already underway, and we expect that it will take several more months – will provide an answer, because journalists, politicians and people generally have questions. All these questions will be answered and resolved by the investigation and court.
If I talk briefly on what happened in Andijan and how we assess it, I would like to note that Andijan can not be seen outside the context of the serious events happening around us – in the world and the post-Soviet area. Essentially, this was a carefully prepared, competently prepared, seriously prepared operation, where not only street democracy, the street crowd, who were fed and trained in advance, but new forces. What is new about them? This time, the scriptwriters and directors of this “operation” relied on and used religious, extremist and radical forces, whom these same scriptwriters and directors once called terrorists and extremists, whom they fought so successfully in Afghanistan and are now fighting in Iraq. In any case, we have enough facts to prove that this “operation” was prepared several months beforehand, or perhaps several years. And several events which took place in Uzbekistan – such as the more independent policies of the country, the rejection of several proposals which were made to us – sped up the outcome of the events that took place and pushed this scenario to realisation.
We have information that confirms this, and there are people who are currently testifying. These people were trained outside Uzbekistan. They will speak tomorrow, they will be shown, it will be possible to see them. These people were trained at training grounds, and can carry and use weapons – automatic weapons, grenade launchers and everything else. Of course, within Uzbekistan people were also trained who were supposed to join them at a signal.
In the night of 12–13 May at 12:30 a.m., someone clearly gave a command. There was an attack on a patrol service, not just a service but a battalion. Around 200 automatic weapons and other weapons were seized there. Then there was an attack on a military division, a motorcycle infantry brigade, where weapons were also seized. Then the trained and armed people attacked a prison and freed over 600 criminals. Around 400 of them were armed with weapons that were captured.
Now you can imagine how this quite powerful terrorist group acted on the streets of Andijan, captured hostages, treated them mercilessly, and shot many of them. It is clear that these testimonies will also be confirmed.
Then administrative buildings were captured. Essentially, not just gunmen, but snipers were stationed on the roofs. One of them is in custody. He says that he was trained in Afghanistan and took part in other troop operations.
All these events were planned beforehand. When I came to Andijan early in the morning, at 7 a.m., we immediately found a way of contacting the rebels sitting in the complex of city administration buildings. We started talks. I would like to take this opportunity in your presence to say once more than from 8 a.m. and over the course of nine hours – while talks were proceeding – there was not a single shot. The surname of the person with whom we held talks was Barbiev. Currently he and his accomplices are hiding in Kyrgyzstan. He had advisors, among whom there was a division of duties. When this is discussed in court tomorrow, it is clear that many people may think about how it was possible to categorically state something for which there were no grounds at all.
Incidentally, the information attack deployed against Uzbekistan began long before the completion of this “operation”. We have sufficient information that most journalists – primarily western journalists – arrived in Andijan on 10 May, settled in hotels, so they could look over the areas and take photographs of everything in order to send these new flashes to the centres from which they were distributed and so on.
It is clear that this operation had one goal. Essentially, what happened in Bishkek on 24 March this year – the street fighting, the beating and pillaging, the looting and so on – all this was supposed to take place in an even worse form in Andijan. As soon as this started, there would have been wide-scale looting, and neighbouring villages and towns in the Fergana Valley would have immediately been set on fire.
And you know well what the Fergana Valley is. It is the meeting place of three republics. The Fergana Valley as a geographical concept does not just include three Oblasts of Uzbekistan, where around 9 million people live, but also the Leninabad Oblast of Tajikistan and three Oblasts of Kyrgyzstan: The Jalal-Abad, Osh and Batken Oblasts. Essentially, this enclave was supposed to be united and play a decisive role in the far-ranging plans of the separatists who organised the entire operation.
I must stress the following. Today we are certain of one thing, that the operation was so well planned that parallel to this terrorist aggression another operation was prepared from the territory of a neighbouring country. Imagine, so many people were involved, so many weapons were seized, that naturally these organisers knew that blood would be shed. The rebels seized over 300 automatic weapons, they seized a large number of weapons, attacked a jail, and shot people on the streets. Who did they capture? They captured prosecutors, policemen and everyone who was evidently on their list.
Naturally, there had to be bloodshed. Naturally, everyone understood that some innocent people would be victims.
And the parallel operation was absolutely foolproof. Any court, any international commission from many countries you know would have intentionally put primary emphasis on this: however the Uzbekistan motivated its actions in the war against extremists, say, peaceful citizens were the victims. And for this reason alone the government and leadership of Uzbekistan must answer for this.
This is a ready revolution, food for the information attacks which continue to this day, although in my opinion their resources are running out. This revolution was already prepared. Naturally, above all the U.S. Congress, the European Parliament and NATO would have been the first to make condemnations and pass appropriate resolutions. Naturally, the angry democrats and angry society of Europe and the United States would have demanded for the government and leadership of Uzbekistan to answer for the innocent victims.
I repeat, there was the obligatory formula: whatever guided the actions of the government of Uzbekistan, peaceful citizens still died. And this is the result.
Where do the fantastic ideas come from that 700, 800, 1,000 people were killed? I think that they come from everyone responsible for the “operation”, for realising this scenario, which was in any case a losing scenario for Uzbekistan and its leaders.
This is everything I wanted to inform you about. And I stress once more that the court and only the court will give a final decision on everything that is happening. Our people are sufficiently qualified. I think that in several months there will be an open trial, and anyone who wants to can be present there, including U.S. congressmen, and all the human rights activists who so impudently and without any grounds talk about the tragedy that took place in Uzbekistan.
I repeat, yes, a tragedy did take place. I believe that what happened is above all the pain of the Uzbek people, the pain of our people. If you like, it is the pain of all the people who feels sympathy for us. It is pain which is difficult to bear. Only those who saw it with their own eyes understand this.
Unfortunately, all the resolutions, all the decisions that people are attempting to make or have attempted to make have been made on the European continent – for some reason NATO is the most active of all – have no material basis to them. They are all guided solely by communications or reports of agencies, journalists and human rights activists. Essentially, there are no actual materials at all.
We are not members of NATO. The question arises: why is NATO trying to make decisions in relation to us? Clearly, there is one answer. For some reason they believe that we are interested in being members of NATO or establishing partnership with the bloc. But we live in Asia. As far as I understand, NATO is a North Atlantic partnership. It is a military and political bloc, as Mr. Scheffer says [NATO General Secretary] which has nothing to do with Asia. But note the persistence with which NATO is advancing today on to the territory of Transcaucasia and attempting to increase its presence in Central Asia. After this, many things will become clear for you as to why they are so interested in trying to influence processes taking part in our region, and are relying on the tragedy which took place in Andijan.
Perhaps I will stop here, because a great deal can be said on this topic. Outside the framework of our meeting, I would be happy to find the opportunity to answer any questions, and journalists will have a lot of questions. I see them as natural questions. I am prepared to answer them, only of course without abusing your time and the agenda which we must realise today.
Mr Putin: Islam Abduganievich, I must say that firstly we greatly felt for what happened in Andijan. First of all I would like to take this opportunity to express my condolences for all the victims and families of those killed.
But as you know, we had information about the infiltration of rebels from Afghanistan. We informed our colleagues in the countries where they were concentrated, but I don’t know whether this information got to you on time.
Of course, this problem exists. I won’t go into other aspects of this quite complex and tragic event right now. But in general we confirm the information that infiltration by rebels from specially trained bases in Afghanistan did take place and that their concentration on adjacent territories was a fact. Our special service confirmed this.