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Instability Looms For Uzbekistan Following Reports Of The President’s Death

Islam Karimov

Multiple media outlets have reported the death of long-standing Uzbek President Islam Karimov, but no official confirmation has been given and speculation of a power struggle over his successor intensifies.

On Monday night, Fergana news agency reported that Karimov—hospitalized on Friday after an apparently severe stroke--had died, according to a detailed timeline by the Moscow Times.

Interfax said officials in Tashkent denied the rumors, insisting that Karimov remained in a “serious, but stable position” after suffering a stroke on Friday.

The New York Times reports that the Uzbeki website Fergana has been banned at home since 2005 and has been run from Moscow by editor Daniil Kislov since then.

The nightly news show on Uzbekistan’s main television channel did not comment on the health of the president at all on Sunday Night.

On Monday, Lola Karimov, the president’s youngest daughter used Instagram to report that the president had been hospitalized for a stroke.

The 78-year-old leader was last seen in public on August 17th and had been slated to participate in Uzbekistan’s 25th Independence Day celebrations on September 1st.

Sources from the opposition party, the People’s Movement of Uzbekistan, said Karimov lost consciousness during a party on Friday thrown to celebrate the country’s Olympic team and its 13 new medals from the Rio de Janeiro games.

The reception ended at 10 p.m., when Karimov fainted because he had “drunk too much vodka.”

Over the weekend, medical professionals from Germany and Israel had been flown to Tashkent to provide care before Karimov was hospitalized.

Questions about succession are now at the forefront, despite the lack of confirmation of Karimov’s death, and Russia will be a major factor in this potential new playing field, likely playing a behind-the-scenes role in support of the Uzbek security services.

“Islam Karimov has built a very stable system of power, which is based on the power of the special services,” Kislov told The Times. “Regardless of who is the main person in the country, the real power will be with the special services.”

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Karimov first came to power when Uzbekistan was still the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic in 1989. He is the only person to hold the office of president since the country gained independence in 1991.

Karimov’s authoritarian tactics put him at odds with human rights organizations worldwide.

“Thousands of people are imprisoned on politically motivated charges, torture is endemic, and authorities regularly harass human rights activists, opposition members, and journalists,” Human Rights Watch reported earlier this year.

By Zainab Calcuttawala for Oilprice.com

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