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Kazakh Report: September 14, 1999

14 September 1999

On 10 September, Akezhan Kazhegeldin confirmed information given to RFE/RL correspondents by his colleagues in Almaty that he had been detained at Sheremetyevo-2 airport in Moscow, Russia, on his arrival from London late the previous evening. Russian police officers led by Captain Rumiyantsev explained to Kazhegeldin that they were authorized to stop him due to a special demand of the Kazakh National Security Service. Kazhegeldin spent about six hours at the airport and then was brought to the Kremlin hospital with heart problems, but told RFE/RL's Kazakh Service on 11 September that he felt well. Kazhegeldin explained that he had intended to travel to the Kazakh cities of Atyrau and Oral in order to meet with local residents. He made that decision after Kazakh Ambassador to the United States Bolat Nurghaliyev published an article in the "Washington Times" in which he said that Akezhan Kazhegeldin could return to Kazakhstan without any problems, and that nobody was going to bring criminal proceedings against him there.

RFE/RL correspondents report that leaders and activists of the Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan organized protest demonstrations of protest in front of the buildings of the Russian Embassy and the Kazakh National Security Department in the former capital of Kazakhstan on September 11 to demand the immediate explanations and release of Kazhegeldin. Several participants in the demonstrations were reportedly detained.

On September 9, Kazakhstan's Central Election Commission officially that Akezhan Kazhegeldin had been refused registration as a parliamentary candidate to the Kazakh parliament due to his criminal records (the accusations of tax evasions and illegal property ownership abroad brought against Akezhan Kazhegeldin had not been lifted). Kazhegeldin encountered similar problems in January 1999 when he was refused registration to contend the presidential elections.

Akezhan Kazhegeldin has been moved to Barvikha sanatorium from the Kremlin Central Clinic, where he is being guarded by Russian OMON troops, and his state of health has apparently improved, his press secretary told RFE/RL's Kazakh Service on 14 September. Representatives of Kazakhstan's National Security Service have reportedly not been allowed to question him. Kazakhstan's General Prosecutor Yurii Khitrin was also barred from meeting with the former premier, who was detained by Russian police officers at the request of Kazakhstan's National Security Committee at Sheremetyevo airport on his arrival from London on 10 September. Khitrin was, however, allowed to speak to Kazhegeldin by telephone, and advised him return to Kazakhstan "voluntarily." Kazhegeldin answered that he would go home voluntarily any time he thought it appropriate to do so.

Under Russian law, a person can be detained and kept under house arrest for no more than three days, which means that Russia must make a decision by midnight on 14 September whether to extradite Kazhegeldin to Kazakhstan or allow him to leave the country. The Russian authorities have not yet issued an order for his arrest nor for him to be expelled and sent to Kazakhstan, or anywhere else. Kazakhstan's Ambassador to Russia, Tair Mansurov, tried to urge Russian officials to issue such an order. But the Russian authorities requested a full explanation of the reason for that request and of the charges brought against Kazhegeldin by the Kazakh authorities. The Kazakh National Security Committee sent documents detailing those charges, which include "tax evasion and illegal possession of property abroad," but the Russian officials rejected them as not "full enough" to issue an official order for Kazhegeldin's arrest.

Former Russian former Premier Sergei Kirienko, Russian State Duma deputies, and representatives of human rights groups and other organizations spoke to Mr. Kazhegeldin by phone and visited him in the Kremlin's Central Clinic and Barvikha sanatorium.

Kazhegeldin has sent a letter to Russian President Boris Yeltsin asking him not to expel him to Kazakhstan, where, as Kazhegeldin said, he cannot be sure about his safety. Nataliya Kazhegeldina, Kazhegeldin's wife, also sent a letter to Russia's First Lady Naina Yeltsin, asking her to assist in solving the problem faced by her husband.

Meanwhile, in Kazakhstan several activists of the Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan are on hunger strike to demand Kazhegeldin's immediate release. Robert Yugai, Saya Isa, Sergey Bondartsev, Zhan Tleubay and others started the hunger strike after being arrested by the Kazakh police on 11 September when they organized a non-sanctioned demonstration of protest in front of the Russian Embassy in Almaty. They were tried the same day at the local Courts and reportedly fined.

On 13 September, the Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan did not hold a similar action in front of the Russian Embassy as that day had been designated a day of mourning for the victims of the terrorist attack in Moscow. But on 14 September the protest action was reportedly being continued in front of the building of the Russian Embassy in Almaty.

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov arrived in the former capital of Kazakhstan late on September 13 to take part in the session held by foreign ministers of 16 Asian states. Representatives of the Kazakh Foreign Ministry warned RFE/RL correspondents and other journalists not to put any questions to the Russian Foreign Minister on his arrival.

The main issue discussed at the session held by the Foreign Ministers of16 Asian states, known as members of the Asian Council on Mutual Understanding and Cooperation, was about the further development of multilateral cooperation between the states of the Asian region. Correspondents of RFE/RL report that the foreign ministers signed a joint declaration on mutual cooperation between the member states.

According to information sent by correspondents of RFE/RL, the Kazakh State Antimonopoly Agency held a special session on 14 September to discuss the situation around Almaty Power Consolidated (APC), a Kazakh-Belgian Joint Venture controlling the energy and heating supply system of Almaty Oblast. It was decided that the APC demand to increase fees for electricity and heating supplies starting next month are "not reasonable". The APC wanted to raise the fees by 20 percent.

In a statement dated 12 September, Kazakhstan's Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister Kasymzhomart Toqayev admitted that Kazakhstan sold MiG-21 jet fighters to North Korea. But Toqaev said that neither the president nor the government of Kazakhstan had prior knowledge of the sale. Accusing "a group of people" for supplying the planes to North Korea by by-passing government controls, Toqaev said that this group received a large amount of cash in U.S. dollars for carrying out this contract. According to Toqayev, an investigation is underway. Everybody involved in illegal arms export will be prosecuted in accordance with Kazakh law, the statement read.

In the same statement, Toqaev gave more details on Akezhan Kazhegeldin. According to Mr.Toqayev, the detention of the former prime minister has nothing to do with his political activities and the upcoming Parliamentary elections. Toqaev pointed out that the detention occurred after the official registration of the candidates for the Parliamentary elections. Kazhegeldin, who already was barred from running in the Presidential elections at the beginning of this year, was again denied the right to register as a candidate, this time for the Parliamentary elections.