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Kazakh Report: March 4, 2002


4 March 2002

KAZAKHSTAN HOSTS INFORMAL CIS SUMMIT
The presidents of 11 of the 12 CIS member states (Azerbaijan's Heidar Aliyev stayed at home for health reasons) gathered in the Shymbulaq ski resort, near Almaty on March 1, where they discussed further economic integration within the CIS, joint efforts against terrorism and religious extremism, as well as joint activities in the energy producing and transportation sector. All the discussions were held behind closed doors, no journalists were allowed to attend.

At a short press briefing, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that "although the meeting was informal, it was very productive and sincere." He also said that it is "no tragedy" that the U.S. intends to deploy its anti-terrorist military contingent in Georgia, adding though that "it would be great if Moscow had been informed in good time about such issues." Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said in his turn that Georgia's military cooperation with U.S. is based upon mutual agreements on military partnership. Shevardnadze added that the Russian leadership had been informed about Washington's plans to establish its military presence along Georgian-Chechen border in the very beginning. "Georgia has no secrets from Russia," Shevardnadze said.

President Putin also mentioned that the CIS leaders exchanged opinions on the situation in Afghanistan. "It is a very important issue, since many of our countries border on Afghanistan," Putin said. He also praised what he termed the "democratic orientations of Moldova's President Vladimir Voronin." After the joint talks, the presidents of some CIS states held separate talks, also behind closed doors.

No official documents were signed at the end of the summit. President Saparmurad Niyazov of Turkmenistan left Almaty for Ashgabat immediately after the moring talks. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze and Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin left later in the evening.

KAZAKH PARLIAMENT DEPUTIES VISIT FUTURE SPECIAL ECONOMIC ZONE ON ASTANA'S ESIL RIVER
On 1 March a group of Kazakh Parliament deputies visited the area on the banks of the Esil river in Astana earmarked for the planned special economic zone. According to a presidential decree, a territory of over 1,250 hectares is expected to be turned into a so-called tax free special economic zone which will be named . Astana - Zhana Qala (New City). Special construction works are currently underway, including a new building to house the National Library (see "RFE/RL Kazakh Report," 6 December 2001 and 22 January 2002). The parliament deputies spoke to some workers and foremen about the works, and decided to visit the site on more regular basis in future.

REGIONAL EMPLOYMENT DEPARTMENT SUES LOCAL ENTERPRISES FOR NOT PAYING WORKERS
Four major industrial enterprises in Qaraghandy Oblast, Central Kazkahstan have been taken to court by the local employment department for their alleged reluctance to pay off salaries to their workers. The idea was supported by local trade unions. Nurbek Spatayev of the Qaraghandy Oblast Employment Department told RFE/RL that similar measures will be taken against more local enterprises in the very near future. Each of the enterprises owes about 40-50 million Tenges ($265,000 - $330,000) to its employees. The total amount owed by local industrial facilities and other organizations in Qaraghandy Oblast to their employees is over 4 billion Tenges.

CENTRAL ASIAN LEADERS MEET IN ALMATY.
The Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Tajik and Uzbek presidents held talks in the Almaty on February 28. At a press briefing held after the summit, the four presidents told journalists that they signed documents on transforming their economic union into an organization called Central Asian Cooperation. Kazakhstan's Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kyrgyzstan's Askar Akayev, Tajikistan's Emomali Rahmonov and Uzbekistan's Islam Karimov said they will cooperate more actively in strengthening regional security in Central Asia. Nazarbayev said that the situation in the region as well as that in the whole world has changed since September 11, adding that now all the Central Asian countries realize what a dangerous neighbor they lived with, alluding to the situation in Afghanistan.

The four presidents also assured journalists from all the named Central Asian states that special measures to simplify travel for citizens of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan within the whole Central Asian space will be implemented. President Karimov was elected Chairman of the re-named Central Asian organization.

AMNESTY DECREE TAKES EFFECT IN KAZAKHSTAN
The amnesty decree pegged to the 10th anniversary of Kazakhstan's independence in December 2001 started being implemented in Kazakhstan during the last week in February. In all, about 20,000 inmates of Kazakh jails are expected to be released, most of them young criminals under age of 18 and those older than 50. Kazakhstan's current prison population is estimated at 70,000.

ALFA MOVEMENT, ALMATY COMMUNISTS CRITICIZE KAZAKH PARLIAMENT
At a special press conference in Almaty on 28 February held by leaders of the Alfa movement and the Communist Party's branch in Almaty, the Kazakh Parliament's decision to adopt the state budget for 2002 was harshly criticized. Alfa movement chairman Zhaqsybay Bazylbayev said that the law on the state budget for 2002 was adopted without comprehensive and thorough discussions and research. Arsentiy Apolimov, who is chairman of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan's branch in Almaty, said that it looks as though Kazakh Parliament deputies do not feel any responsibility for the legislative documents they adopt. The issue of the state budget is traditionally raised every year and is an object of criticism by opposition movements and parties, as well as for some members of Kazakh Parliament itself.

GROUP OF MAZHILIS DEPUTIES WANTS EXPLANATION OF SITUATION FACED BY SOME MEDIA OUTLETS
At a session of the Mazhilis -- the lower chamber of the Kazakh Parliament -- on February 27, a group of deputies led by Serikbay Alibayev officially sent a query to Kazakhstan's Minister of Culture, Information and Social Concord Mukhtar Qul-Mukhammet, asking him to provide an explanation for the situation faced by the private TV-company "Irbis" in Pavlodar, Northern Kazakhstan and by the "Respublika" weekly in Almaty (see "RFE/RL Kazakh Report," 18 and 23 January and 21 February 2002). All publishing houses in Almaty refuse to print "Respublika," while the Pavlodar City Court has ruled that Irbis must suspend its operations for three months. According to Alibayev, such decisions are politically motivated and may be defined as attempts to curb press freedom in Kazakhstan.

RESULTS OF KAZAKH PREMIER'S VISIT TO MOSCOW
The Kazakh Cabinet's press spokesman told journalists on 27 February that Kazakhstan's Prime Minister Imanghaliy Tasmaghambetov successfully held his first meeting with his counterparts from Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, the Russian Federation and Tajikistan in Moscow the previous day. The prime ministers of those countries gathered in Moscow to discuss further cooperation within the Eurasian Economic Community, which comprises those five former Soviet republics.

It was reported at the press conference in Astana that Tasmaghambetov held talks on 26 February with his Russian counterpart Mikhail Kasyanov and signed several documents, according to which the process of changing citizenship for Russian and Kazakh citizens was simplified, mutual anti-dumping sanctions were lifted, and new tariffs for Kazakh oil transportation via Russia were decided on. It was also reportedly decided that Russia will continue leasing the Baikonur Space Complex in Central Kazakhstan for the indefinite future. The Kazakh Cabinet press spokesman also said that Kasyanov called Kazakhstan one of the Russian Federation's most important strategic partners.

"BAGHYS" STAFF DEMANDS KAZAKH GOVERNMENT BECOME MORE ACTIVELY INVOLVED IN RESOLVING UZBEK-KAZAKH BORDER DISPUTE
Leaders and activists of the "Baghys" Staff held a press conference at Almaty's National Press Club on 27 February, where they said that they will continue fighting for the proper demarcation of the Uzbek-Kazakh border. On December 28 2001, some 1,500 residents of the village of Baghys on the Kazakh-Uzbek border proclaimed the village's independence from Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan and elected local activist Aidar Abdramanov as President of so-called Kazakh Republic of Baghys. In such a dramatic way local residents tried to focus the attention of both Kazakh and Uzbek officials on the border demarcation issue. The NGO called "Baghys" Staff, also known as the Committee for the Protection of Kazakh Lands, was established at that time and Oral Saulebay, a physician from Almaty was elected as its President. He was detained and spent over a fortnight in jails in Uzbekistan and southern Kazakhstan. The present whereabouts of the President of the Independent Kazakh Republic of Baghys, Aidar Abdramanov, are unknown.

Oral Saulebay said at the 27 February press conference that due to the activities of his Staff, the Uzbek side has agreed to recognize the village of Baghys as Kazakh territory, but the destiny of a second village, Turkestanets, which is also situated on disputed territory is not clear yet. According to Saulebay, Kazakh officials have already agreed to leave Turkestanets on the Uzbek side of the Kazakh-Uzbek border. Saulebay added that a special letter with all the relevant documents has been sent by his organization to President Nazarbayev urging him to help to "save the Kazakh village of Turkestanets."

UNITED DEMOCRATIC PARTY HOLDS PRESS CONFERENCE
The leaders of the United Democratic Party of Kazakhstan (UDPK), which unites the Republican People's Party, Azamat and National Congress, held a press conference in Almaty on 27 February at which they demanded that the "presidential family stop controlling the country's mass media." They claimed that the closest relatives of President Nazarbayev, namely his eldest daughter Darigha and his sons-in-law, control all the major media outlets in Kazakhstan. They also demanded that the operations of some major TV companies be fully checked. Vice Chairman of the National Congress Party Gulzhan Ergaliyeva said that although some senior Kazakh officials were invited to the press conference, they did not show up.

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