Is Islam Karimov, the ruthless dictator who has ruled Uzbekistan for 25 years, dead or alive?
Uzbek authorities insist that President Karimov, 78, is in a stable condition in hospital after suffering a brain haemorrhage at the weekend, reportedly after drinking vodka toasts to the country’s Olympic medallists.
Yet a host of well-informed regional experts and analysts, citing insider sources, are equally adamant that Mr Karimov is dead. Analysts are concerned that his death could trigger instability in Uzbekistan, a mainly Muslim country of 32 million people that borders Afghanistan.
“It’s a fact,” Daniil Kislov, editor of the well-respected Ferghana