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Uzbekistan Says Karimov In 'Critical' Condition Following Stroke

File photo of Uzbek President Islam Karimov.
File photo of Uzbek President Islam Karimov.

Uzbekistan's cabinet has announced after days of official silence that President Islam Karimov is in critical condition after suffering a stroke, although Reuters cited three diplomatic sources as saying the 78-year-old strongman is dead.

Later on September 2, Turkey's prime minister, Binali Yildirim, was shown at a televised cabinet meeting saying that "Uzbek President Islam Karimov has passed away," adding, according to Reuters, "May God's mercy be upon him, as the Turkish Republic we are sharing the pain and sorrow of Uzbek people."

It was unclear where Turkish officials had gotten their information.

There was no official comment on the Reuters report, which came a few hours after the September 2 cabinet statement carried by Uzbekistan's official newspaper, Halq Sozi (People's Word).

It said Karimov was hospitalized on August 27 and that in the previous 24 hours his condition "saw a sharp deterioration and is considered critical by the doctors."

The statement was the first official word on Karimov since the cabinet announced on August 28 that he had been hospitalized, without saying what was wrong. His daughter said on Instagram the next day that he had suffered a "brain hemorrhage."

Uzbekistan celebrated Independence Day on September 1, with Karimov absent. The prolonged official silence had set off speculation that the only person to have led post-Soviet Central Asia's most populous country it declared independence in 1991 had died.

Reuters did not name its diplomatic sources. "Yes, he has died," it quoted one of them as saying.

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The statement and the report came amid signs that Uzbekistan could be preparting for Karimov's funeral.

RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reported that district mayors and other officials were instructed to wear white shirts and black suits to work on September 2.

The instructions were issued late on September 1 amid what appeared to be rushed preparations in Karimov's native city of Samarkand, on the ancient Silk Road, where central streets were blocked off as cleaning and apparent construction work took place.

A large red carpet was laid in the city's historic Registan Square and loudspeakers were being installed.

INFOGRAPHIC: How Does Karimov's Rule Compare?

There was also activity around the Chorraha Mosque in Samarkand, and public workers and university students were also being bused to Samarkand's airport.

Reuters also reported that Nursultan Nazarbaev, the president of neighboring Kazakhstan, will cut short a trip to China and fly to Uzbekistan on September 3.

Security sources told RFE/RL's Uzbek Service that Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyaev had also made a trip to the city.

Streets in the center of ailing Uzbek President Islam Karimov’s native city of Samarkand have been blocked off as cleaning and apparent construction work were taking place on a central square late on September 1.
Streets in the center of ailing Uzbek President Islam Karimov’s native city of Samarkand have been blocked off as cleaning and apparent construction work were taking place on a central square late on September 1.

In Karimov's absence, Mirziyaev led a commemorative event in Tashkent on August 31 that marked the start of Independence Day celebrations.

Karimov has not been seen in public since mid-August.

Uzbekistan In Numbers (click to enlarge)
Uzbekistan In Numbers (click to enlarge)

Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva, Karimov's younger daughter, suggested via social media on August 31 that her father was alive and could potentially recover.

Until September 2, Uzbekistan's tightly controlled state media had not mentioned Karimov's illness, and it also remains unclear who is currently in charge of the Central Asian nation of around 30 million.

Karimov has no apparent successor, and observers suggest any such decision would likely be made within the Uzbek president's tight inner circle.

International rights watchdogs and Western officials accuse Karimov of brutally suppressing perceived political opponents, and the country has never held an election deemed democratic by Western monitors.

The Uzbek Constitution states that if the president is unable to perform his duties the head of the upper chamber of parliament, the Senate, assumes presidential authority for a period of three months.

No public comments have come from Senate Chairman Nigmatulla Yuldashev, who has led the upper house since January 2015.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, TASS,, RIA Novosti, and Interfax

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