Update: Uzbekistan says 18 killed, hundreds wounded in unrest

Uzbekistan’s state prosecutor said on Monday that 18 people died during unrest in the autonomous Karakalpakstan region. This happened after protests erupted over planned constitutional changes affecting the territory’s status last week.

“In (the administrative centre) Nukus, 18 people died as a result of serious injuries received during massive disorders,” Russian news agency Ria Novosti quoted Abror Mamatov, an official from the state prosecutor’s office, as saying.  

Mamatov was speaking at a briefing where a representative of the National Guard said that 243 people were injured during the unrest, 94 of whom were hospitalized.

Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has since walked back draft constitutional amendments that would have removed the republic’s constitutionally ingrained right to self-determination. 

The clashes pose the most significant challenge yet to the 64-year-old’s rule since he rose to power from the post of prime minister in 2016, when his long-serving mentor Islam Karimov died.

On Sunday, Mirziyoyev made his second visit to Karakalpakstan in two days. He accused protest organisers of “hiding behind false slogans” and trying to “seize the buildings of local government bodies”.

Uzbekistan’s parliament has voted to extend a period of public discussion on the draft constitutional law for another 10 days – until July 15, lawmaker Bobur Bekmurodov wrote on Twitter on Monday. 

The autonomous republic’s constitutional right to break away from Uzbekistan is a legacy of an agreement struck between Karakalpakstan and the central government in Tashkent after the collapse of the Soviet Union. 

The authoritarian government has never appeared willing to entertain the prospect.

One amendment set to remain in the draft document will allow presidents to run for seven-year terms, directly benefitting Mirziyoyev, who crushed token opponents to secure a second five-year term in October 2021.

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