July 4 (UPI) — A total of 18 people are dead and hundreds more are injured after protests in the city of Nukus in Uzbekistan, the country’s prosecutor general said Monday.
Proposed changes to the constitution lead to riots in Nukus, which serves as the capital of the autonomous Republic of Karakalpakstan in Uzbekistan.
The riots took place Friday and Saturday, prosecutors confirmed, resulting in 243 injuries in addition to the fatalities.
Prosecutors said the violence happened when demonstrators tried to storm a government building. About 94 remain in the hospital with serious injuries, they said.
Western analysts said the proposed constitutional changes would have serious ramifications for local people, stripping much if not all of the current autonomous structure of Karakalpakstan.
Amnesty International on Monday called on Uzbekistan’s government to immediately stop using force against Karakalpakstan protestors.
“The images we saw last weekend on social media, which showed brutally injured protesters and what looks like blood on the streets, were truly shocking,” said Marie Struthers, the human rights group’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia director.
“The authorities must urgently disclose exactly what happened in Nukus, order an impartial, independent and thorough investigation into the use of force against protesters, and ensure those responsible face justice in fair trials,” she said.
Amnesty accused Uzbekistan’s authoritarian president, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, of “silencing critical voices and blocking information” through the use of a newly declared state of emergency.
“Cutting off Internet and mobile communications in Nukus is stopping the world from knowing what happened over the weekend,” Struthers said.
Witnesses said police detained more than 500 people during the demonstrations.
Mirziyoyev declared a month-long state of emergency Saturday, during which residents’ movements are restricted and all public events are banned.
The move was praised by Russia, which strongly backs the government of the former Soviet republic.
“We welcome measures taken by Uzbekistan’s authorities and are convinced that they will help normalize the situation in this part of the country,” the Russian foreign ministry said on Monday.
Moscow, the Kremlin said, is “keeping a close eye on developments in Uzbekistan, our friendly nation, where a nationwide discussion of changes and additions to the country’s constitution is underway based on the authorities’ policy aimed at improving the legal foundations of the state.”