Bottleneck at Kyrgyzstan-Kazakhstan border checkpoints continues amid election feud between countries

A long line at the Kyrgyz-Kazakh border

BISHKEK (TCA) — Long lines of cars, trucks, and frustrated travelers on foot stretched back from Kyrgyzstan’s border with Kazakhstan, which officials in Bishkek suspect has restricted movement across the border amid a politically charged dispute ahead of Kyrgyzstan’s presidential election on October 15, RFE/RL reports.

As the crush at the border entered its third day, some motorists at the Ak-Jol checkpoint on October 12 told an RFE/RL correspondent they had waited in line overnight but still had not crossed into Kazakhstan.

“We had to spend many hours at one checkpoint on October 10 before they told us that their computers were frozen,” said Natalya Tyan, a Russian citizen who was trying to cross into Kazakhstan. “Then we came here the next day, and now 17 hours later we are still in the line.”

Motorists said only one vehicle was crossing the border every two hours, and that nobody had explained why. People without cars were stuck in long lines inside a cage-like corridor leading to the border and were waiting hours to cross.

Kyrgyzstan’s Alamudun district governor Kasymbek Chodurov, who arrived at the Ak-Jol checkpoint on October 11, told RFE/RL that tents had been set up to provide travelers with food and water and offer beds for pregnant women and the elderly and ill.

Kyrgyzstan’s State Border Service told RFE/RL that long lines of automobiles and people had formed near several checkpoints as Kazakh authorities appeared to step up checks and slow the pace of crossing procedures as of October 10.

Kazakhstan’s National Security Committee said on October 11 that “a scheduled border operation” was being conducted along the country’s frontiers.

But some of the travelers seeking to cross blamed a public blow-up between senior officials of the two countries over what outgoing Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev claims has been interference by Kazakhstan in the election to choose his replacement.

On October 7, Atambayev accused Kazakh authorities of “meddling in Kyrgyzstan’s internal affairs” and of openly supporting Omurbek Babanov, who is facing off against his favored successor and other candidates in the vote in Kyrgyzstan.

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

The accusations came after Nazarbayev met on September 19 with Babanov, who is seen as a front-runner along with ruling Social Democratic Party candidate Sooronbai Jeenbekov.

On October 10, Kazakh Prime Minister Bakytzhan Sagintayev rejected the Kyrgyz claims of interference, calling them “groundless”.

At the border on October 12, people seeking to cross said they had never seen such crowds in the past.

Truck drivers said they were worried that the fruit and vegetables they were hauling would spoil before making it to markets in Kazakhstan and Russia further to the north.

The Kyrgyz government said on October 11 that Kyrgyz Prime Minister Sapar Isakov spoke with Nazarbayev on the sidelines of a Commonwealth of Independent States summit in Russia, and that Nazarbayev then ordered his government to resolve the border issue.

But on October 12, the Kazakh government said the two had only spoken briefly, and that Nazarbayev gave no such order. It said he had instructed Kazakh officials to consult with Kyrgyz officials.

Truckers on the Kyrgyz side told RFE/RL that the line started moving faster as of about 11 p.m. on October 11, but that it slowed again starting at about 8 a.m. on October 12.

Meanwhile, RFE/RL’s correspondents on the Kazakh side reported that vehicles and people on foot were entering Kyrgyzstan without waiting in line.

Armed Kazakh soldiers were seen near the Qordai checkpoint, which observers said they had never seen before.

Sergey Kwan


Sergey Kwan has worked for The Times of Central Asia as a journalist, translator and editor since its foundation in March 1999. Prior to this, from 1996-1997, he worked as a translator at The Kyrgyzstan Chronicle, and from 1997-1999, as a translator at The Central Asian Post.
Kwan studied at the Bishkek Polytechnic Institute from 1990-1994, before completing his training in print journalism in Denmark.

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