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Country Reports
Uzbekistan, Landmine Monitor Report 2004


Key developments since May 2003: Kyrgyzstan claimed in February 2004 that Uzbekistan had replanted mines in areas that the Kyrgyz deminers had cleared in the first half of 2003. In June 2004, Uzbekistan declared it would demine its borders with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. At the same time, it requested international support for its demining efforts and technical assistance in finding substitutes for landmines.

Key developments since 1999: Uzbekistan used antipersonnel mines on its borders with Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, beginning with the Afghan border in 1998, then the Kyrgyz border in November 1999, and the Tajik border from August 2000-May 2001. Both Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan contend that Uzbekistan laid mines inside their borders. Uzbekistan declared demining by Kyrgyzstan in disputed border areas illegal. Kyrgyzstan claimed in February 2004 that Uzbekistan had replanted mines in areas that the Kyrgyz deminers had cleared in the first half of 2003. In June 2004, Uzbekistan declared it would demine its borders with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Since 2000, incidents involving mines laid by Uzbekistan have caused at least 65 Uzbek casualties and numerous others involving Tajik and Kyrgyz citizens.

Mine Ban Policy

Uzbekistan has not acceded to the Mine Ban Treaty. According to informal interviews with officials, it has no intention of joining in the immediate future.[1] On 11 June 2004, Defense Minister Qodir Gholomov announced that the government would consider demining its borders and planned to examine alternatives to landmines. A media report quoted an anonymous Uzbek government official as stating it was “too early” to talk about Uzbekistan joining the treaty as it intends to keep mines on its border with Afghanistan.[2] Uzbekistan has stated in the past that mines are necessary for national security to prevent the flow of narcotics, arms, and insurgent groups across its borders.

The country participated in a few preparatory meetings of the Ottawa Process, as an observer, including the regional conference held in Turkmenistan in June 1997. Since that time, however, Uzbekistan has never attended an annual meeting of Mine Ban Treaty States Parties, or any meeting of intersessional Standing Committees. While diplomats from Uzbekistan’s embassy to the Russian Federation attended a regional landmines seminar in Moscow in November 2002, Uzbekistan did not attend regional landmines meetings held in Kyrgyzstan in November 2003 or Tajikistan in April 2004. While Uzbekistan voted in favor of pro-mine ban resolutions in the UN General Assembly in 1996 and 1997, it abstained from voting in 1999, 2000, 2002 and most recently in December 2003. The country was absent for the 1998 vote, and was not allowed to participate in the 2001 vote.

Uzbekistan is a member of to the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) and its original Protocol II on landmines, but has not joined Amended Protocol II.

Production, Transfer, Stockpiling

In July 2001, the Uzbek ambassador to the United States, Sadik Safaev, told Landmine Monitor that there is no antipersonnel mine production in Uzbekistan.[3] In March 2004, an official from the Ministry of Economics said that Uzbekistan has neither the technology nor the raw materials for mine production and noted that there were no job orders for mine production in the Department of Defense or any other related departments.[4]

A representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has confirmed that, since 1995, Uzbekistan has had an agreement with Russia that outlines “bilateral decisions on purchase-selling of defense technology (military equipment), componentry, ammunition, and munitions.”[5] According to the representative, “mines were not mentioned in the list” of items to be monitored in the agreement.

A representative from the Ministry of Defense could not disclose whether the country has exported mines, but a local authority from the province of Surkhandarya told Landmine Monitor that during the mid-1990s, Uzbek troops transported ammunition and landmines to General Rashid Dostum in Afghanistan, who then controlled the northern frontier of Afghanistan to prevent movement of Taliban forces to the southern regions of Uzbekistan.[6]

According to a Ministry of Defense official, information on mine stockpiles and their destruction is a military secret, but he indicated that the mine stockpile is made up of remnants of the former Soviet Army and includes Soviet-manufactured OZM-72, PОМZ, and PMN antipersonnel mines.[7] Another Ministry of Defense official claimed that more than the half of the available stockpile of mines has been distributed to border guard forces. Akhmad Saidov, the Deputy Minister for Emergency Situations, has declared that his department has no mines and that no such devices are used in their activities.[8]

A reserve forces colonel, a former member of the Turkestan military division (a territorial subdivision of the former Ministry of Defense of the Soviet Union) has noted that before 1991, the ammunition depots of Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan contained approximately 4 million antipersonnel and antivehicle mines intended to protect the southern border of the Soviet Union. The majority of these mines were produced between 1970 and 1980. After the dissolution of the USSR the stocks remained in three republics.[9]


While portions of the border with Afghanistan were mined during the Soviet period, Uzbek forces began mine laying in 1998 due to increased fighting and border skirmishes with the Taliban. While the Uzbek government neither confirms nor denies mine laying, citizens of the southeast Uzbek border city of Termez and in villages surrounding Termez corroborate the information, stating that the mines still remain in the ground.

Uzbek border guards started placing mines on the Kyrgyz border in November 1999. In June-September 1999, an armed group from Tajikistan entered Kyrgyz territory near the Uzbekistan border and engaged in combat with Kyrgyz and Uzbek armed forces. As a result of the conflict, Uzbekistan is reported to have reinforced its unmarked border with Kyrgyzstan with landmines.[10] The minefields were reportedly emplaced along the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border in the Ferghana valley and around the perimeter of Sokh, an Uzbek enclave, in the southern Batken region of Kyrgyzstan.[11] Kyrgyzstan began demining the areas in mid-2001, a move that was criticized as illegal by Uzbekistan’s Ministry of Defense.[12]

Kyrgyzstan reports that it again conducted mine clearance in the first half of 2003, but that work had again stopped due to border disputes with Uzbekistan.[13] In February 2004, Kyrgyzstan’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs stated that Uzbekistan had replanted mines in areas that the Kyrgyz deminers had cleared.[14]

Uzbekistan mined its border with Tajikistan starting in approximately August 2000.[15] On 4 October 2000, Uzbek Defense Minister Kodyr Gulomov admitted that Uzbekistan had started to mine its border with Tajikistan to prevent further incursions by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU).[16] In December 2000, the Secretary of Uzbekistan’s National Security Council, Mir-Akbar Rakmankulov, said, “The Tajik military were provided with full information explaining where the mines had been planted and why these measures were taken.”[17] The Tajik Foreign Ministry disputed this and sent notes of protest to Tashkent after mine incidents.[18] New areas of the Uzbek-Tajik border were reported mined during the week of 10 May 2001.[19]

There have been no confirmed instances of landmine use by Uzbekistan on any border since June 2001. Throughout 2001, Uzbekistan’s mine use was criticized by the ICBL, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), UNICEF, and even reportedly by the head of the United States Central Command, General Tommy Franks.[20]

Uzbek border guards used antipersonnel mines provided to them by the Ministry of Defense. A representative of the Committee of Uzbek National Frontier Guard stated that two-fifths of available mine reserves have been laid. According to the same representative, “Mines are meant to prevent penetration of gangster units and drug sellers into Uzbekistan and to prevent illegal selling of ammunition and weapons.”[21] The representative went on to indicate that he felt such measures were effective. Mines encountered on the borders with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have included the OZM-72 bounding fragmentation mines, PMN blast mines, and POMZ fragmentation mines.[22]

Landmine Problem

The issue of landmines and their related dangers has been essentially prohibited from public discourse in Uzbekistan because of security classifications imposed by the government. Uzbek media has reported little if anything about the landmine problem. In a rare departure, in a press conference on 31 May 2004, the Second-in-Command of Frontier Troops Colonel Rashid M. Habiev stated that Uzbekistan’s 7,000 kilometers of border is guarded by technical means including landmines; he said, “Mines are located exclusively in the territory of our country and if people are blown up by them that is their own fault.”[23]

Uzbek Defense Minister Qodir Gholomov recently conceded that some mines were laid on open plains, but most were emplaced in mountainous and hard to reach border areas inaccessible for border patrols.[24] Uzbekistan’s Ministry of Defense claims that all minefields are marked clearly, but other sources note that the marking is sporadic and that in some cases mines were placed in populated areas. Whether Uzbekistan has provided maps to officials in bordering countries remains in dispute.[25]

During interviews with residents of villages near the city of Termez bordering Afghanistan, Landmine Monitor found that no measures had been taken to inform local populations about landmines or the dangers posed by their presence. Neither schools nor local communities had organized any risk education on how to avoid mined areas, recognize mines, and help injured people.

Mine Clearance and Risk Education

On 11 June 2004, the Minister of Defense of Uzbekistan released a public statement declaring that the government had agreed to begin demining efforts along the country’s eastern borders with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.[26] Uzbekistan repeated the announcement on 18 June 2004 during an OSCE Permanent Council meeting in Vienna, where OSCE member states welcomed the initiative and encouraged the government to consider acceding to the Mine Ban Treaty.[27] At the same meeting, Uzbekistan also requested international support in its demining efforts and technical assistance in finding substitutes for landmines in securing its borders. A spokesperson with Uzbekistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ilkhom Zakirov, reportedly told media that the decision was partially prompted by the establishment in June 2004 in Tashkent of a regional anti-terrorism center, as part of a security alliance involving China, Russia, and all Central Asian republics except Turkmenistan.[28]

The demining operation was scheduled to begin in July 2004 along the Kyrgyz and Tajik borders. There are no plans to demine the 150-kilometer Uzbek-Afghan border.[29]

In 2002, the United Nations office in Uzbekistan, UNESCO, and the NGO Reporters Without Borders published an Uzbek language pamphlet for reporters that described anti-landmine activities, listed and provided diagrams of several common landmines (PMR -2А, PMA-2, PMA-3, PROM-1, and MRUD), and set out in detail instructions on minefield evacuation and medical assistance for mine casualties. The booklet is perhaps the only instance of a mine awareness publication in the country.

Landmine Casualties

There are no official records on landmine casualties in Uzbekistan. The government does not confirm any reports of mine-related casualties. A representative of the Ministry of Health has noted that death or injuries caused by mines and UXO are officially classified as “accidents.” The First Deputy Minister for Emergency Situations, Akhmad Saidov, told Landmine Monitor that his ministry “does not deal specifically with mine problems, but any situation regarding a threat to the lives and health of the population is registered and considered by our ministry without fail. Our department did not receive any information concerning injuries of civilians because of Uzbek mines.”[30]

A biologist conducting research in the mountainous Gissar Nature Reserve told Landmine Monitor that in 2003, seven Uzbek citizens were killed by mines while herding cattle, including three children, in Kitab district, and that two Uzbek border guards were killed by mines in the same area. The biologist also said that the number of bears and other wild animals in the reserve have been significantly reduced by mine incidents.[31]

The total number of mine casualties in Uzbekistan is not known. Between 2000 and the end of 2003, at least 65 new mine/UXO casualties were reported: nine killed in 2003; five casualties in 2002; 20 killed and 14 injured in 2001; and 14 killed and three injured in 2000. The US Department of State reported at least seven deaths as a result of landmine explosions along the Tajik and Kyrgyz borders in 2003;[32] it reported at least five mine casualties in 2002,[33] and at least twenty civilians killed in 2001.[34] Casualties in 2001 included three young men killed by a landmine while searching for a lost cow and four Uzbek soldiers killed and another 14 injured in landmine incidents in the Uzbek-Tajik border area. However, the President’s office denied any knowledge of these incidents.[35] In 2000, Landmine Monitor identified 14 people killed and three injured in mine incidents.[36]

In 2003, landmines along the Uzbek border killed at least six Tajik citizens and injured at least four others; new casualties continue to be reported in 2004. In the past, casualties were also reported along the border with Kyrgyzstan. (See Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan reports) In 2003, Batken Oblast officials in Kyrgyzstan reportedly lodged a formal request for compensation in the amount of 6 million som (approximately $121,000), claiming this amount as the cost of Uzbek mines in terms of lives, land, and opportunities lost.[37]

There are also periodic reports of civilian casualties caused by unexploded and abandoned ammunition in Uzbekistan, specifically in the border areas near Afghanistan where explosive ordnance landed in the territory of Uzbekistan, as well as near former Soviet bases, firing ranges, and at the former Chirchik Tank College on the border with Kazakhstan.

Little is known about healthcare facilities in Uzbekistan, but it is not believed to offer special assistance to mine survivors or their families. There is a national prosthetics center, which is reportedly not functioning efficiently, and a Korean organization, New Hope, which fits prostheses free-of-charge.[38]

[1] Nearly all government respondents to questions from Landmine Monitor researchers requested anonymity for the purpose of their personal security. The government classifies as “confidential” all matters related to landmines in Uzbekistan. Landmine Monitor is also, upon request, withholding specific interview dates.
[2] “Red Cross Welcomes Uzbekistan’s Decision to De-mine Borders,” AP (Tashkent), 1 July 2004.
[3] Letter to Landmine Monitor (Mary Wareham), from Amb. Shavkat Khamrakulov, Embassy of the Republic of Uzbekistan to the United States, 31 July 2001.
[4] Interview with Ministry of Economics official, March 2004.
[5] Interview with Ministry of Foreign Affairs official, December 2003.
[6] Interview with a member of the oblast authority (Surkhandarya khokimiyat), December 2003.
[7] Interview with Ministry of Defense official, February 2003.
[8] Interview with Akhmed Saidov, Deputy Minister for Emergency Situations, Tashkent, 12 March 2004.
[9] Interview with former Turkestan Military Division officer, January 2004. Mine Ban Treaty State Parties Turkmenistan and Tajikistan declared stockpiles of 1.17 million and 3,000 antipersonnel mines respectively.
[10] Interview with Asel Otorbaeva, correspondent of Vecherny Bishkek daily, and Marat Bozgunchiev, Director, WHO Information Center for republics of Central Asia, 17 May 2000; emails from Nick Megoran, Eurasia Insight, Central Eurasia Project, 22 June 2000 and 1 July 2000; Daniyal Karimov, article in Delo newspaper, 3 May 2000.
[11] Institute for War and Peace Reporting (Central Asia), “Storm over Uzbek Landmines: Protests grow as civilians fall victim to mines planted by Uzbek military along the country’s remote borders with Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan,” 15 December 2000.
[12] Interview with Col. Daniar Izbasarov, Head of the Engineers Unit, Ministry of Defense, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, 9 February 2002.
[13] Statement by Col. Vladimer Buchov, Kyrgyzstan Chief of the Engineering Battalion of the Ministry of Frontier Troops, Bishkek, 5 November 2003.
[14] Statement by Kyrgyzstan, Standing Committee Meeting, Geneva, 9-13 February 2004.
[15] “Uzbekistan Mines Border with Tajikistan,” RFE/RL Newsline, Transcaucasia and Central Asia, 5 October 2000; “Four killed, two hurt in landmine blast on Tajik-Uzbek border,” AFP, 31 August 2000.
[16] “Uzbekistan Mines Border with Tajikistan,” Radio Free Europe, 5 October 2000.
[17] IWPR, “Storm over Uzbek Landmines,” 15 December 2000.
[18] “One killed, two injured in landmine blast on Tajik-Uzbek border,” AFP (Dushanbe), 8 January 2001.
[19] “Uzbeks notify Tajiks of new border mines,” IRIN, 10 May 2001.
[20] GICHD, “Mine Awareness and Advocacy Mission to Central Asia, A Report for UNICEF,” 12 September 2001, p. 18; Suhov Fedor, “Uzbek mines blow up Middle Asia. Tashkent can provoke a bloody conflict,” Tajikistan Daily Digest, 21 June 2001.
[21] Interview with official from Committee of Uzbek National Frontier Guard, January 2004.
[22] GICHD, “Mine Awareness and Advocacy Mission to Central Asia,” 12 September 2001, pp. 17-18.
[23] Answers to journalist’s questions by Rashid M. Habiev, Second-in-Command of Frontier Guards, during a press conference at the UN Representation Office, Tashkent, 31 May 2004.
[24] Statement by Defense Minister Qodir Gholomov, Tashkent, 11 June 2004.
[25] See Landmine Monitor Report 2002, pp. 774-776.
[26] Aziz Nuritov, “Uzbekistan says it’s ready to de-mine borders with Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan,” Associated Press (Tashkent), 23 June 2004.
[27] Statement by Uzbekistan to 511th special meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council, 18 June 2004, ref: PC.DEL/521/04.
[28] “Uzbekistan says it’s ready to de-mine borders,” Associated Press, 23 June 2004.
[29] “Uzbekistan to clear mines on Tajik, Kyrgyz borders,” AFP (Tashkent), 23 June 2004.
[30] Interview with Akhmad Saidov, Deputy Minister for Emergency Situations, 12 March 2004.
[31] Interview with biologist, in the building of the State Committee for Nature Protection of Uzbekistan, 7 July 2004.
[32] US DOS, “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2003: Uzbekistan,” 25 February 2004.
[33] Ibid, 31 March 2003.
[34] Ibid, March 2002.
[35] For more details see Landmine Monitor Report 2002, p. 777.
[36] See Landmine Monitor Report 2001, pp. 648-649.
[37] “Kyrgyzstan’s Batken Oblast Tries to Collect Damages from Uzbekistan,” Radio Free Europe, 5 March 2003.
[38] GICHD, “Mission to Central Asia,” 12 September 2001, p. 31.