London, June 7 (RFE/RL) - Kazakhstan's Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin has defended plans to shift his country's capital from Almaty to Akmola, about 1,000 kms to the northwest.
Kazhegeldin told a news conference in London last night that Almaty
"is not the right place geographically to have the capital." He said
Almaty was a poor choice, explaining that if you fly from Almaty to
Moscow, it takes four hours and 15 minutes - "and for three hours of
that time you are flying over Kazakhstan."
Kazhegeldin said the motivation for moving the capital was not
because there is a large number of ethnic Russians in Akmola and
across northern Kazakhstan. Kazhegeldin said moving the capital will
not take place immediately, because no money for the move had yet
been allocated in the budget.
Kazhegeldin is in London, attending a conference on investment
opportunities in Kazakhstan.