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Kazakhstan: Monument To Mark Independence Day

Almaty, 16 December 1996 - (RFE/RL) A monument will be unveiled in Almaty's central square today to mark five years of Kazakh independence. President Nursultan Nazarbayev and his Turkish counterpart Suleyman Demirel are scheduled to attend the ceremony.

Kazakhstan declared its independence on December 16, 1991, and became an independent state when the Soviet Union dissolved on December 26 of that year.

In connection with today's holiday, the director of the Kazakhstan Research Institute for the Protection of the Health of Mothers and Children -- Nina Qaiypova -- is being awarded the annual Peace and Cooperation Prize. The honor is also being given to Turkish Minister of State Kemal Namik and to the governor of Omsk Oblast in Siberia, Leonid Polezhayev.

Kazakhstan is also marking this week the 10th anniversary of the 1986 unrest in Almaty. Nazarbayev has named a participant in those events -- Kayrat Ryskulbekov -- a Hero of the Nation, the country's highest civilian award.

Authorities used violence to quash student-led unrest after the Kremlin replaced Kazakhstan's Kazakh leader with an ethnic Russian. Dozens are believed to have been killed in the clashes. Ryskulbekov was given the death penalty for his role in the protests. His sentence was eventually reduced, but he was later found hanged in his cell.

Russian President Boris Yeltsin sent a message congratulating Nazarbayev on today's anniversary.

Itar-tass news agency, citing the Kremlin's press service, said Yeltsin said he hoped that cooperation between Russia and Kazakhstan would grow in the future.