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Unrest overshadows dream of IT-powered 'new Uzbekistan'

Net blackout, bans on Twitter, TikTok at odds with courtship of tech investors

An Uzbek law enforcement officer guards a street in Nukus, the capital of the northwestern Karakalpakstan region, on July 3. Officials say 14 protesters and four officers were killed during recent unrest.   © Reuters

ALMATY -- Uzbekistan is on a mission to turn itself into an information technology hub by capitalizing on talent streaming in from Russia and Belarus after Moscow's invasion of Ukraine. But deadly unrest and an internet blackout across a swath of the Central Asian country risk disrupting the economic reform effort.

Uzbekistan's nascent IT industry got a lift this year from thousands of specialists relocating to Tashkent after a number of companies halted their activities in Russia and Belarus due to the Ukraine conflict.

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