Significant risks to commercial property and people

Violence flared once again in the central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan as a wave of ethnic cleansing left around 2,000 people dead and 400,000 fleeing for their lives. The fresh wave of violence poses increasing risks to people, property and commercial assets, according to risk analysts.

Ethnic bloodletting broke out in early June in Southern Kyrgyzstan, centered in the Uzbek village of Nariman in the Osh region. On June 21, four people were killed and more than 20 wounded as a result of a special operation carried out by internal security forces, according to Exclusive Analysis, which has sources on the ground in Kyrgyzstan.

Interim President Roza Otunbayeva, who came to power after a revolt in April toppled the country's president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, has promised a referendum to consolidate the new government’s legal position. The referendum is scheduled for June 27, however, it is unlikely that the majority of the population of Kyrgyzstan’s southern region will be able to take part.

Human Rights Watch called for a UN-mandated force to assist the Kyrgyz government in providing protection and stopping inter-ethnic violence engulfing Osh and spreading to other cities in southern Kyrgyzstan.

"People are desperate to escape the violence but without international assistance there's no way out, and every minute of delay is costing lives," said Andrea Berg, a Human Rights Watch observer.

Osh residents describe how gangs are setting houses on fire and shooting people as they attempt to flee. The gangs reportedly leave when the military arrives but return again one the military leaves.

The poor security situation has prevented delivery of humanitarian supplies to the thousands of ethnic Uzbeks who are fleeing the violence and massing at different points along the border with Uzbekistan.

The United States and Russia, which both operate military air bases in Kyrgyzstan, are concerned that unrest could spread into other parts of Central Asia.

A long serving military general at the ministry of the interior, who had been relatively successful at dealing with the ethnic violence in the south, resigned after the June 21 security operation. He spoke out against holding the referendum until the security situation improved, reported Exclusive Analysis.

Criminal gangs will likely increase risks to individuals and businesses in Kyrgyzstan’s northern region, according to the firm’s incident assessment. Reports claim that these Kyrgyz groups, with links to drug trafficking as well as political and business ties, have been threatening ethnic minorities in the capital Bishtek and surrounding villages.

These networks could be used by the ex-president ahead of the referendum, noted the assessment. “This would create risks for goldmining operations in this part of the country (e.g. Jerooy) as well as to other commercial operations (uranium processing, hydropower stations and water reservoirs like Toktogul and Issyk-Kul) and ground cargo.”

Support from Russian military forces could mitigate this risk but that relies on the continued loyalty and support of the Kyrgyz defence ministry forces and the current interim government.