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Kazakh Report: February 7, 2002

7 February 2002

President Nursultan Nazarbayev attended the first session of Kazakhstan's new cabinet on 7 February. Premier Imanghaliy Tasmaghambetov called on all cabinet members to work fruitfully for the country. President Nazarbayev asked them not to write letters to him, saying that last year he had received over 850 letters from Kazakh officials. Nazarbayev said that it would be better if all officials, especially members of the government, could work instead of writing to the president asking for assistance.

Nazarbayev also harshly criticized those officials who travel either abroad or to Almaty too frequently. "It is ridiculous that some of our top officials go to foreign countries to participate in useless seminars and even more ridiculous when they extend personal greetings on my behalf," he said. He added that those officials who travel too often to Almaty from Astana should quit their posts.

Nazarbayev also said that Kazakhstan's National Bank is an independent financial organization. He said "The National Bank [of Kazakhstan] is not dependent on the government, on the parliament and even, if you wish, on myself." He added that the Kazakh parliament has no right to demand that National Bank chairman Grigorii Marchenko show up in the Parliament to answer questions. On 1 February Mazhilis deputies demanded that Marchenko attend a Mazhilis session to explain the circumstances of a commercial bank's bankruptcy (see "RFE/RL Kazakh Report," 4 February 2002).

President Nazarbayev also asked members of the new cabinet not to turn into new "Young Turks." "Young Turks" (Zhas Turikter or Mladotyurki) is the nickname of a group of young Kazakh politicians led by former Pavlodar Oblast governor Ghalymzhan Zhaqiyanov who established the opposition movement Democratic Choice for Kazakhstan in November 2001.

The UN's representative in Kazakhstan, Abdul Karim Gul, said in Astana at a Senate session on 7 February that Chechen refugees in Kazakhstan should be differentiated. According to Abdul Karim Gul, some Chechen refugees are living legally with their relatives who are permanent residents of Kazakhstan, while other Chechen refugees currently in Kazakhstan have taken part in both Russo-Chechen wars.

"One thing should be clear," Gul said, "terrorists cannot be given refugee status." He added that all those suspected of participation in any sort of illegal military operations, terrorism or other crimes should be thoroughly interrogated before the decision is taken whether or not to grant them refugee status.

According to official statistics there are currently some 22,000 refugees in Kazakhstan of whom 12,000 are refugees from Chechnya, 5,000 from Tajikistan, and 3,500 from Afghanistan. As for the remaining 1,500 refugees, they are from different countries. But Senate member Pavel Atrushkevich said on 7 February that the official data are wildly inaccurate: he claimed that the number of refugees from Chechnya alone is over 30,000. Atrushkevich added that all the refugees should be registered, saying though that the registration process is the weakest link.

Abdul Karim Gul also said that over 700 young Uighurs from the neighboring Chinese province of Xin Jiang are living in Kazakhstan illegally. He said that measures should be taken to determine whether those Uighurs qualify for refugee status.

On February 7 the newspaper "Respublika - Delovoye Obozreniye" announced that it is suspending publication after the Almaty-based Dauir publishing house refused officially to print the newspaper's latest issue. Berik Duisenov of "Respublika - DO" told RFE/RL that the publishing house's refusal was politically motivated. Meanwhile Dauir's administration explained their refusal by the "lack of appropriate technology." Last week another periodical, "Vremiya Po - the Globe," had to suspend publication for the same reason. Both periodicals are financed by well known Kazakh businessman and former Minister of Industry, Energy and Trade Mukhtar Abliyazov. Abliyazov is one of the co-founders of the opposition movement Democratic Choice for Kazakhstan.

Almaty's Bostandyq District Court has heard a lawsuit filed by Ersain Erqozha, Chairman of the Education is the Hope of the Future Generation movement, against three persons -- Maqsut Qusmanov, Tustikbay Ozgenbayev and Menlibike Nalibayeva. It was proved in the Court room that in spring 2000 Qusmanov and Ozgenbayev threw acid in Erqozha's face, seriously damaging his health (see "RFE/RL Kazakh Report," 13 October 2000). It was also proved that the action was ordered by Mrs. Menlibike Nalibayeva, who worked as an accountant at Kazakhstan's Ministry of Education and Science. According to Erqozha, the attack against him was politically motivated and some more powerful persons are behind it. Erqozha is known for his repeated criticism of Kazakhstan's Education and Science Ministry.

Judge Isa Maishibayev sentenced Maqsut Qusmanov to 8 years' imprisonment, Tustikbay Ozgenbayev to 6 years and Menlibike Nalibayeva to 6 years in labor camps.

On 6 February, Serikbolsyn Abdildin, who is First Secretary of Kazakhstan's Communist Party, told journalists that all the problems faced by the opposition movement Democratic Choice for Kazakhstan (DVK) were initiated by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev. DVK was established in mid-November 2001 by a group of young Kazakh politicians who were later sacked by Nazarbayev. According to Abdildin, Nazarbayev and his close associates are trying to take all opposition parties and movements under their strict control. He added that Nazarbayev should try instead to establish a constructive dialogue with various opposition parties and movements and take their opinions into account.

Meanwhile, Kazakh Parliament deputy Khairulla Erezhepov said after Abdildin's press conference that the latter's statements were groundless. Erezhepov argued that all the members and founders of DVK are former members of the Cabinet or regional governors, who, as he said, are not able to change just in one day. "Why didn't they implement all their ideas while they were still top officials of the country?" he asked. He also said that it is inappropriate for real communists to support and defend the bourgeois.

Amirzhan Qosanov, who is Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Republican People Party of Kazakhstan, held a press conference in Almaty on February 6 at which he said that the Kazakh leadership ignored the 10th anniversary on 30 January of Kazakhstan's membership in the OSCE. Qosanov claimed Kazakh officials did that on purpose in order not to remind citizens of Kazakhstan about the country's failure to meet the obligations it assumed voluntarily as a member of that international organization. He said that although Kazakhstan has officially signed numerous international treaties and agreements including the Helsinki Final Act and the Paris Charter, Nazarbayev's regime has never taken seriously such key issues as democratic reforms, free and fair elections and media freedom. Qosanov recalled that the OSCE did not recognize the presidential and parliamentary elections held in 1999 as free and democratic.

Leading members of the Almaty's Workers Movement held a press conference on 6 February at which they announced that they have sent a written demand to Kazakhstan's new Prime Minister Imanghaliy Tasmaghambetov. They said that they have asked the new cabinet to increase pensions by 25 per cent, to lower the retirement age to 55 for women and 60 for men, to pay more attention to the social needs of the population and to fight more efficiently against corruption and organized crime.

Imanghaliy Tasmaghambetov was appointed premier by presidential decree on January 29, one day after Qasymzhomart Toqayev resigned.