by Otabek Kasimov, Head of Inspectorate on supervision of the implementation of the Convention on Prohibition of Chemical and Bacteriological Weapons, Tashkent
Alongside the reforms initiated by Shavkat Mirziyoyev, the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan, the country has been actively working in the international arena, strengthening links with the European Union (EU). The implementation of the adopted Strategy of Actions in Five Priority Areas for the Devel- opment of Uzbekistan for 2017-2021 is seen with the EU being a promising model of cooperation.
In his speech to the 72nd session of the United Nations Gen- eral Assembly, the Uzbek president emphasised the need to support the cooperation efforts of Central Asian states to ensure security and strengthen regional cooperation, achieving common readiness to respond to serious threats and risks.
The EU’s interest in the region
The EU has strengthened cooperation in the region to reduce the risks of exposure to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) materials. This was first reviewed and discussed on 11th March 2015 in Dushanbe, at the 2nd meeting of the High-Level Dia- logue on security issues between the EU and Central Asian countries (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan).
A memorandum on the establishment and operation of the Regional Secretariat of the Centres of Excel- lence on CBRN materials for Central Asia was signed in Brussels on 18th May 2015 between Uzbekistan and the UN Interregional Research Institute for Crime and Justice (UNICRI). According to the corresponding decision of the Uzbek government, the chair of the State Committee for Industrial Safety of Uzbekistan is the head of the Regional Secretariat who ensures the coordination of interactions of state organisa- tions with the Regional Secretariat.
BRN threats – a realistic scenario
In a changing world, the global community undergoes both optimistic and negative changes. In this regard, the possibility of biological or chemical terrorism, especially in light of the events of recent decades, cannot be ignored. With the EU’s coordination and cooperation with UNICRI and other international organisations, the fight against CBRN relat- ed problems is being conducted in 61 countries, representing 8 regions and about one billion people. These are environmental issues, water, food, terrorism, and illegal traffic in hazardous materials, cybercrime, and much more.
Today, the urgency of the problem, especially terrorism, is dictated by our reality. Terrorism in any form has become one of the most dangerous issues by its scale, unpredictability and consequences. It is one of the biggest socio-political and moral problems with which humanity entered the 21st century. Modern terrorism is a powerful structure that is acquiring more and more diversified forms and threatening dimensions. Terrorist acts bring mass human casualties and entail the destruction of material and spiritual values, which are not always recoverable.
How to protect ourselves
Each state individually and in interactions with others should be able to protect its people and region, adequately respond to incidents and prevent the possible consequences of attacks. Unfortunately, incidents and events show that terrorists have the knowledge and desire to use chemical and biological agents. Willingness to confront these threats is a difficult
task; however, the consequences of unpreparedness can have unpredictable consequences. Undoubtedly, the reflection of the risk of a terrorist attack requires comprehensive and well- trained preparedness at the national, regional and global level, which includes the need for special exercises.
Exercise Jeyran in Uzbekistan
Taking into account those threats and risks, the Security Council, under the President of Uzbekistan, was instructed to ensure a high-quality chemical-biological counter-terrorism field exercise, named “Jeyran”. It was a joint event with the EU, under Uzbekistan’s National Action Plan on the implementation
of international documents in the field of CBRN safety for 2018- 2021 (approved by government decree N° 968 of 27th November 2018).
On 13-14th November 2019, at the Civil Protection Institute of the Ministry of Emergency Situations in the Tashkent region, many observed the exercise: Uzbekistan government officials, experts in the field of chemical and biological safety from partner countries of the Regional Secretariat (Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Mongolia, Pakistan), representatives of other CoE Regional Secretariats, as well as observers from international organisations such as the EU, UNICRI, the Regional Anti-Ter- rorist Structure of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO RATS), and others.
Four realistic scenarios
A working group developed the “Jeyran” exercise scenarios with representatives of the European company ENCO (Poland). It consisted of four logically connected parts, which demon- strated the interconnected response and coordinated actions of state structures in the event of terrorist threats with the use of chemical and biological agents. All events were as close as possible to reality, where the available forces and means were used, including robotics and specially trained dogs. One spe- cialist from Afghanistan, Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan participated as players in the exercise. A demonstration of special equip- ment, a contingent of forces and specialists, their equipment, as well as familiarisation with the Civil Protection Institute of the Ministry of Emergency Situations was organised during the exercises.
The exercise was conducted by the Deputy Commander
of the National Guard and coordinated by the acting chairman of the State Committee on Industrial Safety. It was unprece- dented and the first in Central Asia, with a scenario in which an important element was the provision of chemical and biological safety by the joint coordinated efforts of the relevant ministries and departments. When foreign observers and the working group summarised the results, it was especially noted that
this exercise improved the professionalism and practical skills of participants. Additionally, it improved the preparedness of forces and means of ministries and departments to have harmonious and coordinated action to combat chemical and biological threats of a terrorist nature. This exercise could serve as a blueprint for other regional exercises.