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Kazakhstan Defends Plan To Move Capital

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.