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Kazakh Report: May 3, 2001


3 May 2001

KAZAKH OPPOSITION MEETS WITH OSCE OFFICIAL
Orleu movement leader Seydakhmet Quttyqadam and Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan Executive Committee acting chairman Amirzhan Qosanov, together with other politicial figures, met on 30 April with the visiting Chairman of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, Adrian Severin. Quttyqadam told RFE/RL on 2 May that the meeting was very fruitful and they discussed the situation faced by independent mass media and opposition in Kazakhstan. Quttyqadam said Severin told him that the OSCE is planning to hold a Trans-Asian Parliamentary Forum later this year and special hearings on human rights in Kazakhstan this summer.

Qosanov said he gave Severin a written account of attacks on the independent newspapers "SolDat" and "21 Vek" and details of the cases of Yurii Afanasenko and Talghat Ibraev, the former bodyguards of Kazakhstan's ex- premier Akezhan Kazhegeldin, who were sentenced to several years in prison for alleged illegal possession of arms; Azamat party activist Platon Pak, who was stabbed in his own apartment earlier this year; and Gulzhan Ibraeva, co-chairwoman of the National Congress Party, who was beaten together with her family members by unknown persons.

NEW RAIL LINE TO CONNECT QOSTANAY WITH AQTOBE
The Kazakh Cabinet has drafted a special program on construction of a new rail link connecting Qostanay in northern Kazakhstan with Aqtobe in north-west Kazakhstan. Nurzhan Baidauletov of the Kazakh Transport and Communication Ministry's Rail Roads Department told RFE/RL by telephone on 2 May that the new railroad will be about 300 kilometers long and cost about $140 million. Baidauletov said no foreign investments would be used for the new rail road. He added that the new railway will help to avoid entering Russian territory while transporting wheat, petroleum and other goods between the two important regions of Kazakhstan.

TWO PERSONS DIED IN THE RESULT OF CROSSFIRE IN ORAL
On 30 April about 50 persons, presumably members of two criminal groups, took part in armed clashes in the town of Oral in western Kazakhstan, according to official media reports on 2 May. Policemen found one person dead and about 20 wounded, one of whom later died in hospital. Investigations are underway.

KAZAKH FINANCE MINISTRY TO LAUNCH FINANCIAL SUPPORT FOR TWO REGIONS OF WEST KAZAKHSTAN OBLAST
Kazakhstan's Finance Minister Mazhit Essenbaev has announced that his ministry will start providing financial assistance for two regions of West Kazakhstan Oblast situated near the Soviet-era Azghyr and Kapustin Yar military testing fields. The territory was contaminated by missile tests conducted over a period of many years during the Soviet period. Even now the Russian Army sometimes uses the territory for tests under the Kazakh-Russian inter-governmental agreement signed in 1997.

KAZAKHSTAN MARKS PEOPLES' UNITY DAY
Kazakhstan officially celebrated the Day of Peoples' Unity on May 1. The holiday formerly known as the International Day of Workers' Solidarity was re-named Peoples' Unity Day by Kazakh Presidential Decree in 1995. In both the former and present capitals (Almaty and Astana) special concerts, festivals and meetings took place. President Nursultan Nazarbaev took part in the celebrations in Almaty, addressing thousands of people gathered on Republic Square.

BUS DRIVERS IN KOKSHETAU STRIKE TO MARK PEOPLES' UNITY DAY
Thirty drivers employed by the Kokshetau City Public Transport Department launched a strike on the eve of May 1, RFE/RL reported. The drivers demand payment of their overdue salaries and a salary increase. They also want better working conditions. Local representatives of Kazakhstan's Forum of Democratic Forces held a press conference in Kokshetau on 30 April to inform the population about the strike and express their support for the strikers.

ALMATY-BASED MUSTAFA SHOQAY FOUNDATION AND UYGHUR ORGANIZATIONS COMMEMORATE HEROES OF EAST TURKESTAN
On April 29, the Mustafa Shoqay Foundation and Uyghur organizations in Kazakhstan held a special gathering near the village of Kazakhstan, which is located 80 km northeast of the former capital in Almaty Oblast on the highway connecting Almaty with Kulja, in China's Xin Jiang province (formerly Eastern Turkistan).

Special Islamic prayers commemorating Ospan Batyr and Ghany Batyr were recited and a special dastarkhan was organized for the gathering's participants. Ospan Islam-Uly was the leader of the Altay Kazakhs in Eastern Turkistan (currently Xin Jiang) in the 1940s-1950s. He led the national liberation movement of the Altay Kazakhs, which along with the national liberation movements of other Muslim-Turkic ethnic groups of Eastern Turkistan, proclaimed the independence of the Republic of Eastern Turkistan in the late 1940s.

Later on, the territory of Eastern Turkistan was annexed by Chinese Communists and the republic received its current name Xin Jiang, which means New Frontier in Chinese, and became part of People's Republic of China. Ospan Batyr was detained by Chinese communists in 1951 and shot in Urumchi on April 28, the same year. Ghani Batyr, one of the leaders of the Uyghurs of Eastern Turkestan, was shot by the Chinese authorities in 1981.

Elderly Kazakhs and Uyghurs who immigrated to Kazakhstan from Xin Jiang in the 1950s and 1960s shared their memories about Ospan and Ghany with the younger participants and journalists.

NUMBER OF HUNGER STRIKERS AT SOKOLOV-SARBAY INCREASED
As of 1 May, the number of hunger strikers at Sokolov-Sarbay Iron Ore developing facility in Qostanay Oblast, North Kazakhstan, has risen from nine to 25, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. On 24 April dozens of the plant's workers started striking to demand payment of their overdue salaries and to protest the dismissal of colleagues fired because of their membership of independent trade unions. The hunger strikers include some former employees of the plant.

KYRGYZ FOREIGN MINISTER HELD TALKS WITH KAZAKH PREMIER IN ASTANA
On 25 April visiting Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Muratbek ImanAliyev held talks with Kazakh Premier Qasymzhomart Toqaev on regional security in Central Asia and Kazakh-Kyrgyz cooperation in trade, economy, water and energy exchange, communications and other topics. ImanAliyev said that Kyrgyzstan is preparing to the best of its ability to repel possible further incursions by armed radical religious groups this summer. He added that he discussed cooperation between the five member states of the Shanghai Forum.

Speaking about the situation in Afghanistan, ImanAliyev said that the idea of holding reconciliation talks in Almaty between the Taliban government and the so-called Northern Alliance is very important not only for Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan but also "for all the countries interested in stability in Afghanistan." ImanAliyev characterized his two-day working trip to Astana as very fruitful.

EAST KAZAKHSTAN OBLAST BANS MEAT IMPORTS FROM CHINA, KYRGYZSTAN, MONGOLIA, EUROPEAN COUNTRIES AND THE UNITED STATES.
The oblast leadership in Eastern Kazakhstan has imposed a temporary ban on imports of meat from China, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, European countries and the United States. Alexander Tomashenko, who heads the Oblast's Sanitary Control Department, told journalists on 26 April that special sanitary control points have been established along the Russian-Chinese and Russian-Mongolian borders. Tomashenko said the lack of such points along the Kazakh-Chinese border and inability of Kazakh officials to control all meat imported from Europe, China and other countries, makes Eastern Kazakhstan Oblast very vulnerable to BSE and hoof-and-mouth disease.

KAZAKH BARD SINGER AND POET OFFICIALLY RETURNS PRESIDENTIAL AWARD.
Shamil Abiltay, a well-known Kazakh bard, singer and poet, announced on April 26 that he has decided to renounce the title of Honoured Artist of Kazakhstan bestowed on him by Presidential Decree on September 11, 1998. Abiltay told a press conference in Almaty on 26 April that he is doing so in order to protest the proposal by a group of parliament deputies to adopt a new Kazakh anthem, the words of which were allegedly written by President Nazarbaev.

Abiltay said that replacing the current anthem, which was written by classic Kazakh composer Mukhan Toleubaev, with what he termed the "primitive creation of a sudden poet" is "a crime against the whole Kazakh nation."

ECOLOGICAL EXPERTS SAY FORESTS IN DANGER
On April 26, Alexander Amanbaev, the Chief of the Forests, Fish and Animals Protection Committee at Kazakhstan's Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology, Marat Naghymzhanov, the head of the Reforms Foundation, and Amangeldy Qalmaqov, the head of Eastern Kazakhstan Oblast's Forestry Department, held a press conference in Almaty at which they told journalists that unique forests of Eastern Kazakhstan Oblast are under threat. Naghymzhanov said fir-trees and pine-trees in the region are destroyed by fire every summer, and that the illegal export of timber from Eastern Kazakhstan to Russia and Uzbekistan poses a further danger. Naghymzhanov characterized the situation in the forest belt surrounding Almaty as an ecological disaster.

'SOLDAT' NEWSPAPER ATTACKED AGAIN.
Ermurat Bapi, the Editor-in-Chief of the newspaper "SolDat," told RFE/RL on 26 April that on 21 April unknown persons entered the paper's office and destroyed several computers and PC programs, preventing the editorial staff from publishing the next issue. The most recent issue of the paper appeared at the end of March, and the next one was supposed to be published this week.

According to Bapi, it is very likely that the persons who broke into his office and destroyed the computer programs were computer specialists. He said that they destroyed the programs selectively and in a very professional way. The intruders also infected one of Bapi's computers with the "Trojan" virus.

U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT'S DELEGATION IN ASTANA.
A U.S. State Department Delegation led by State Department special envoy John Bayerle arrived in Astana on 24 April. Bayerle told a press conference the following day that he met with Kazakh Foreign Minister Erlan Idrisov in Almaty on 24 April. He added:

"... This visit of our delegation is taking place within the first one hundred days of the new Bush administration, which is a testimony to the fact that the United States attaches great importance to its relations with Kazakhstan and is deeply concerned about the developments of the economy, democratization in this country and in other states of the region. Obviously the United States and Kazakhstan share a common interest in battling against terrorism, its threat to all of us... and in course of our conversations here we want to find ways to increase and enhance our cooperation to battle these together. ...

... Of course, we are concerned with the security situation. This visit we make, includes stops in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. And we hope through our discussions in all of these capitals to get a better sense of how the states in the regions are preparing to confront the threat from terrorist groups, and what ways we and the United States can support these activities..."

KAZAKH PREMIER MET JAPANESE AMBASSADOR.
Kazakh Prime Minister Qasymzhomart Toqayev met with Japanese Ambassador Kendzi Tanaka on April 25 to discuss Kazakh-Japanese cooperation, in particular preparations for the sixth Council of the Kazakh-Japanese Joint Economic Commission. The Council is scheduled to be held next month in Japan.

KAZAKH PRESIDENT LEFT FOR ISTANBUL
President Nursultan Nazarbaev left Almaty on 25 April for Istanbul to attend the sixth Turcophone summit along with his Azerbaijani, Kyrgyz, Turkish, Turkmen and Uzbek counterparts. Social, economic and humanitarian issues and regional security in Central Asia are to be the main topics of discussion.

President Nazarbaev is also scheduled to hold separate talks with Turkish leaders about the planned export of Caspian oil via the Aqtau-Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan route.

President Nazarbaev met at Istanbul's Ciragan Hotel on 26 April with representatives of ethnic Kazakhs living in Turkey, the Presidential office press service reported. Prominent representatives of the Kazakh Diaspora in Turkey, including Dalelhan Canaltay, Mansur Teyci, Muhammedi Kilic, Iyas Saka, Mahmut Filiz, Sirzat Dogru and Ishak Gulen, discussed with the president the life of ethnic Kazakhs in Turkey and other European countries, as well as the achievements of Kazakhstan during the 10 years of its independence.

POLISH FOREIGN MINISTRY DELEGATION VISITS ASTANA
A Polish Foreign Ministry led by Deputy Foreign Minister Barbara Tuge-Irczinska held talks in Astana on April 24 with Kazakh officials led by Deputy Foreign Minister Dulat Quanyshev. The sides discussed further Kazakh-Polish cooperation in the economic, trade and ecological spheres and also Central Asian security. It was noted that the opening of the Kazakh Embassy in Warsaw earlier this year raised diplomatic cooperation between the two countries to a new level. The Polish delegation also met with Kazakh Foreign Minister Erlan Idrisov and other top officials.

CIS JOINT SECURITY COUNCIL DISCUSSES REGIONAL SECURITY
The Chiefs of General Staffs of the Armenian, Belarus, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Russian and Tajik armies, together with deputy foreign ministers from those countries, held talks in Almaty on 24 April on the creation of a joint military rapid reaction force within the framework of the CIS Collective Security Treaty. The force would be deployed this summer in Central Asia.

The Russian Federation was represented by the former Russian Ambassador to Kazakhstan, Valerii Nikolaenko, who told journalists that the session was very productive and important. He noted, however, that the fact that Uzbekistan is not a member of the Collective Security Treaty is the main obstacle to drawing up joint measures to combat radical religious extremists. Nikolaenko said special negotiations on regional security are being held with Uzbek President Islam Karimov.

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