FILE INDIA UZBEKISTAN PEOPLE KARIMOV.jpg
A file photo dated 18 May 2011 showing Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov during a visit in New Delhi, India.
Photograph: EPA/HARISH TYAGI

The fate of Uzbekistan's longtime ruler, Islam Karimov, remained uncertain Friday after the Russian newswire Interfax recalled its urgent report that he had died.

Karimov, 78, has been president of the former Soviet republic in Central Asia for a quarter of a century. He has permitted almost no opposition, and it is unclear who his successor could be.

He was hospitalized over the weekend after suffering a stroke, according to his official website. His website said Friday that he was in critical condition.

Numerous media outlets have since reported that Karimov has died.

Interfax, Russia's largest independent news agency, said it accidentally released the report of Karimov's death because of a "technical glitch."

Meanwhile, Russian state news agency RIA Novosti cited Uzbekistan's government as saying, "at the present time, information about the death of the president of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov, has not been released."

Uzbekistan celebrated its Independence Day on Thursday. Media reports said the country appeared to be preparing for Karimov's funeral.

In case of Karimov's death, the speaker of Uzbekistan's Senate, Nigmatilla Yuldashev, would be expected to temporarily assume the president's role until a popular election.

This week, the government denied reports that a possible successor, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Rustam Azimov, had been placed under house arrest amid rumours of infighting among Karimov's inner circle.

Uzbekistan has remained largely within Russia's sphere of influence since Soviet times but has also provided crucial footing for the US war in Afghanistan, allowing US forces to use a major Uzbek airbase.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim announced on television on Friday that Karimov had died, and expressed his sincere condolences to the people of Uzbekistan.

The countries enjoy robust ties, with Uzbekistan having strong Turkic roots.

More on this story

Confusion surrounds fate of Uzbekistan's stricken leader

The Central Asian nation of Uzbekistan said Friday that its longtime ruler, Islam Karimov, was in critical condition as Turkey's prime minister declared he had already died.

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