28 March 2001
KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT NOTES ECONOMIC GROWTH.
Meeting in Astana on 27 March with the heads of various enterprises and organizations, President Nursultan Nazarbaev said that GDP grew by 10 percent during the first three months of 2001 compared with the same period last year.
VETERANS' ORGANIZATION HOLDS FOURTH CONGRESS.
President Nursultan Nazarbaev attended the Fourth Congress of Kazakhstan's Veterans Organization, which took place in Almaty on 21 March. It was reported at the Congress that of some 1.8 million elderly citizens of Kazakhstan, 64,000 are war invalids or World War II veterans. President Nazarbaev told the congress that pensions and social allowances for war veterans and elderly invalids will be increased as soon as the economic situation in the country permits.
CHINESE DELEGATION IN ALMATY TO DISCUSS WATER USE.
A delegation from the Chinese Foreign Ministry's Committee on International Laws and Rights led by Ma Yao began talks in Almaty on 20 March with Kazakh officials on joint use of the waters of the Ile and Ertis rivers. The Chinese government has begun building huge dams on those rivers, which flow from China into Kazakhstan. Kazakh officials fear that the dams will cause a water shortage in East and South Kazakhstan.
YOUNG MEMBERS QUIT REPUBLICAN PEOPLE PARTY.
A group of young members of Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan announced its decision to quit the party at a press conference in Almaty on 21 March. The group's leader, Sergei Bondartsev, explained that the group considers that "the ideas and principles of the Republican People Party have nothing to do with real freedom and bring nothing but threats to Kazakhstan's security and its further development." He accused the party of propagandizing the "values of rotten American ideology."
The head of the Republican People Party's Branch in Almaty, Alikhan Ramazanov, told RFE/RL that most of those who said they would quit the party were not in fact members of the party and never had been. He accused Bondartsev attempting to blacken the party's image.
Bondartsev for his part had told the KTK TV channel in Almaty the previous week that some people are trying to prove that Amirzhan Qosanov, the acting chairman of the Republican People Party's Executive Committee, is a pedophile. Qosanov told RFE/RL's Almaty bureau on 14 March that those rumors were politically motivated and constitute a further attempt by Kazakhstan's National Security Committee (KNB) to blacken his political image.
The Republican People's Party is led by former Premier Akezhan Kazhegeldin from exile.
KAZAKH FOREIGN MINISTRY RESPONDS TO U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT'S ANNUAL REPORT ON HUMAN RIGHTS.
On March 17, Kazakhstan's Foreign Ministry issued a press release on the U.S. State Department's annual report on human rights situation in Kazakhstan. The statement said: "On February 26, 2001, the U.S. Department of State released its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2000. The report is an internal document of the U.S. State Department. In many aspects, the report on human rights practices in Kazakhstan for the year 2000 repeats the information from the Department's 1999 report, distorts and arbitrarily interprets facts and events of socio-political life in Kazakhstan. The U.S. side had said that the 1999 report was an unfortunate failure in the report drafting mechanism. The present biased document ignores any positive developments in democratization and human rights in the Republic of Kazakhstan and puts basic emphasis on the drawbacks. Despite the fact that Kazakhstan's official sources regularly provided the U.S. side with information on national democratic reforms, virtually all of those facts were ignored. We are perplexed by such an approach. We consider it absolutely unacceptable, inconsistent with our mutual agreements, and violating the 'Charter on Democratic Partnership between the Republic of Kazakhstan, and the USA.' Kazakhstan's achievements in building democracy, market reforms and rule of law are acknowledged by the global community. Therefore, the U.S. Department of State's tendentious appraisal of the human rights situation in the republic is seen as a political move that intentionally undervalues the Kazakhstani leadership's work towards stable, gradual development of social-political and civil institutions of the state."
Meanwhile, the Civic Party and the Agrarian Party, both of which support President Nazarbaev, held a press conference on March 19 at which the parties' leaders harshly criticized the U.S. State Department for what they termed its "biased evaluation of human rights situation in Kazakhstan."
SHYMKENT CITY COURT POSTPONED REVISION OF TEMIRTAS TLEULESOV'S CASE.
On 20 March the Shymkent City Court decided to postpone the review of the verdict handed down last month on Temirtas Tleulesov, the author of two books that provide detailed information on the involvement of local authorities in South Kazakhstan Oblast in corruption and organized crime. Tleulesov was found guilty of "hooliganizm" and sentenced in absentia to two years imprisonment. His current whereabouts are unknown (see also "RFE/RL Kazakh Report," 9 March 2001).
KAZAKH PRESIDENT TELEPHONES WITH NATO SECRETARY GENERAL.
On March 19 President Nazarbaev held a telephone conversation with NATO Secretary General Lord George Robertson. They discussed military cooperation between Kazakhstan and NATO, the situation in Afghanistan and the Balkans, regional security in Central Asia, and the agenda of an international seminar on further military cooperation between the West and Central Asia, which is to be held in May this year.
BUSINESSMAN FOUND GUILTY OF SMUGGLING MILITARY PLANE.
Bolatbatyr Esmaghambetov, head of the InfraKo Company which is based in Baikonur, Qyzyl Orda Oblast, was found guilty by the Baikonur City Court on 14 March of organizing the illegal sale of an AN-12 military cargo plane to Congo last year. The court sentenced him to 12 years' imprisonment. An investigation by Kazakhstan's Committee of National Security found that the aircraft, worth $1.5 million, had been sold to Congo for $35,000. The plane was later returned to Kazakhstan. Esmaghambetov was found guilty of creating a criminal group, organizing smuggling activities and misuse of power. His lawyers say he will appeal the sentence.
RUSSIA'S PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY FOR CASPIAN ENDS WORKING TRIP TO ASTANA.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister and presidential envoy for the Caspian Viktor Kalyuzhnyi held behind closed doors talks in Astana on 14 March with Kazakh Premier Qasymzhomart Toqaev and other senior officials of Kazakhstan. Kalyuzhnyi told journalists after the talks that the planned summit of Caspian littoral states might take place in the first part of April, but did not give a specific date or venue. He also said that Russia does not object to Kazakhstan's joining to the U.S.-backed Aqtau-Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil export pipeline, adding though, that the project's ecological safety should have been checked first. Kalyuzhnyi said the recent visit of U.S. Presidential envoy on Caspian matters Elizabeth Jones to Astana was "an understandable event, but the Caspian countries should also have a policy of their own, in order to preserve their security." He added that Russia is not trying to become the dominant power in the Caspian.
PARLIAMENT DEPUTY CALLS FOR OFFICIAL ANNULMENT OF STALIN'S DECREES.
During a 15 March parliament debate on migration, Mazhilis deputy Ghaniy Qasymov said that before implementing the law on Kazakh repatriates, it is necessary to annul all Stalin-era Soviet decrees. Qasymov recalled that in the 1920s and 1930s millions of ethnic Kazakhs had to leave Kazakh territory for such countries as China, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey and India. In order to facilitate their successors' return, we have to annul the Soviet law which caused the mass exodus of Kazakhs from Kazakhstan, Qasymov said.
KAZAKH PRESIDENT CHAIRS NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL SESSION.
President Nursultan Nazarbaev chaired a session of Kazakh National Security Council on March 15. Council secretary Marat Tazhin told journalists after the session that the main issues discussed were illegal immigration, drug trafficking, energy shortages and foreign investment. Tazhin said that the number of illegal immigrants entering Kazakhstan from neighboring countries has increased alarmingly over the last few years.
PARLIAMENT DEPUTIES WANT GREATER PROTECTION FOR JOURNALISTS.
At a parliament session on 14 March, Deputy Fariza Ongarsynova, asked National Security Committee chairman General Alnur Musayev and Interior Minister Bolat Iskhaqov to investigate, and take steps to prevent, attacks on journalists. She cited the case of well-known TV journalist and politician Gulzhan Ergalieva and members of her family. Ergalieva's husband and son are still in hospital, recovering after having been beaten by several unknown masked persons a couple of weeks ago.
TRADE UNIONS' FEDERATION TO PROTECT RIGHTS OF KAZAKHS WORKING IN FOREIGN COMPANIES ON KAZAKHSTAN'S TERRITORY.
Delegates to a 14 March conference of Trade Unions in Astana agreed that the Federation of Trade Unions should investigate the situation of citizens of Kazakhstan working for foreign companies on the territory of Kazakhstan. The Vice Chairman of the federation of Trade Unions, Rizabek Moldazhanov, said that in all, 3.390 foreign firms and companies are working in Kazakhstan. Those companies employ some 253,000 citizens of Kazakhstan. Moldazhanov said that in many cases, the rights of citizens of Kazakhstan working for foreign companies are fully ignored and forgotten.
PARLIAMENT AGAIN DEBATES AMENDMENTS TO LAW ON MASS MEDIA.
The Kazakh parliament again discussed the proposed amendments to the law on mass media at its 14 March session, amid disagreements over the definition of Internet web pages. The new amendments say that all the periodicals should be registered at Kazakhstan's Ministry of Information and Social Concord. Kazakhstan's Minister of Information and Social Concord Altynbek Sarsenbaev proposed that Internet web pages should be defined as periodicals, but added that they should not be registered. Some parliament deputies say that such a definition is against the law. Mazhilis deputy Serik Abdrakhmanov openly accused Sarsenbaev of exercising open pressure on independent periodicals (see "RFE/RL Kazakh Report," 9 March 2001).
KAZAKH BORDER GUARDS END MILITARY MANEUVERS IN ALMATY OBLAST.
Border troops subordinate to the Kazakh National Security Committee held special military exercises near Almaty on 12-13 March. The second stage of those manoeuvres is scheduled to be held on March 26-29 in South Kazakhstan Oblast along the Kazakh-Uzbek border.
HERO OF DECEMBER 1986 CLASHES HONORED.
A special memorial plaque devoted to Qayrat Rysqulbekov was fixed to the wall of the Dormitory #1 of Kazakh National Academy of Architecture in Almaty on 13 March, the 35th anniversary of his birth. Representatives of the Almaty City Administration led by Deputy Mayor Adil Ibraev were present at the ceremony, as was the First Secretary of Kazakhstan's pro-presidential Civic Party, Azat Peruashev. That party financed the memorial plaque.
Rysqulbekov was one of the leaders of the December 1986 student protests against the appointment of a Russian, Gennadii Kolbin, as First Secretary of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan. Rysqulbekov was officially found guilty of "having organized a non-sanctioned mass gathering which led to bloodshed and deaths" and sentenced to death. He was found hanged in his cell later. It is believed that he was murdered by KGB officers in order to prevent him from divulging details of the investigation. In 1996, President Nazarbaev signed a special Decree on the eve of the tenth anniversary of the protests, which honored Rysqulbekov as a national hero.
DEFENSE MINISTRY DISCUSSES ARMY REFORM.
Kazakhstan's top military officials and military experts held a special session in Almaty on March 20, at which it was stated that the ongoing reforms of the armed forces will continue for another three years. Defense Minister Sat Toqpaqpayev said that in future the role of Kazakh Army's General Staff will be increased, and that the defense minister will be a civilian, not a military officer.
KAZAKH PARLIAMENT DEBATES DRAFT AMENDMENTS TO LAW ON MASS MEDIA.
The Mazhilis (the lower chamber of parliament) on 22 March approved draft law on the mass media that would introduce fees and fines for newspaper, Internet, radio and television journalists who use "non-proven or false" information. The new law still has to be approved by Parliament's Upper Chamber (Senate). The law defines Internet web sites as part of the mass media.
The new law will also reduce the re-transmission of foreign TV and radio programs in Kazakhstan by 50 percent from January 2002, and by a further 20 percent from January 2003. Kazakhstan's Minister of Information, Culture and Social Concord Altynbek Sarsenbaev said the amendments will help to reduce the domination of Russian programs on Kazakh networks. Meanwhile U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan Richard Jones expressed his concern over the decision of Mazhilis to approve the amendments.
Some experts in Kazakhstan consider the amendments an attempt to curb the Internet and impose strict control on the country's few remaining free mass media outlets. Speaking with journalists on 16 March, President Nazarbaev quoted Russian President Vladimir Putin's argument that such restrictions are necessary to protect the country's "informational security."
During a 19 March discussion of the draft amendments by a parliament working group, some deputies opposed reducing the volume of international broadcasting re-transmitted by Kazakh mass media, while others supported that proposal, arguing that almost 90 per cent of all the information space in Kazakhstan consisted of Russian radio and TV programs. Deputy Sherkhan Murtaza said that some Russian TV programs are directed against the principles of Kazakh statehood.
MONUMENT TO ABLAY-KHAN UNVEILED IN AQSU.
A new monument to Ablay-Khan (1721-1781) was unveiled in Aqsu, in the Sayram Region of South Kazakhstan, on the eve of the Nauryz Holiday. One of the most prominent Kazakh khans, Ablay-Khan managed to unite the main three alliances of Kazakh tribes in the 8th century in order to protect Kazakh territories from Chinese and Russian invaders.
FORMER WORKER OF SHYMKENT PHOSPHORUS PRODUCING PLANT BEGINS HUNGER STRIKE.
Saylaubay Qaiupov, a former worker at the Shymkent Phosphorus Producing Plant, began a hunger strike on March 15 in front of the South Kazakhstan Oblast administration building in Shymkent to demand that the plant pay his overdue social allowances, which amount to some 2.5 million Tenges ($17,000). The Phosphorus Producing Plant went bankrupt and ceased operations several years ago.
PRESIDENT'S DAUGHTER TO QUIT AS KHABAR NEWS AGENCY CHIEF.
At a special ceremony on 21 March devoted to the opening of Khabar News Agency's new Bureau in Astana, Darigha Nazarbaeva, President Nazarbaev's eldest daughter, announced her resignation from the post of president of the Khabar News Agency which she founded in the early 1990s, and which has become the most powerful and prosperous media-holding in Kazakhstan. President Nazarbaev, who attended the ceremony, said his daughter's decision was not politically motivated.
KAZAKH PARLIAMENT'S UPPER CHAMBER ADOPTED LAW ON POSSIBLE AMNESTY OF SHADOW CAPITAL.
The Senate, the upper chamber of Kazakhstan's parliament, on 21 March sent back to the Mazhilis the draft legislation setting conditions for the return to Kazakhstan of capital exported illegally. On 16 March, the Senate's Economy, Finance and Budget Committee removed article 12 of the draft in which the Mazhilis had proposed a tax of up to 12 percent on all funds returned from abroad to bank accounts in Kazakhstan (see also "RFE/RL Kazakh Report," 9 March 2001).
PRESIDENT'S BROTHER LAUNCHES OWN FOUNDATION.
President Nursultan Nazarbaev's brother Bolat announced on 22 March that his Bolat Nazarbaev Foundation will sponsor a competititon for the best book and painting to commemorate the 1727 (or according to some acounts 1726) Battle of Angyraqay in which the Kazakh Khans defeated the Jungarians near Lake Balkhash, Almaty's Kanal 31 TV reported. Bolat Nazarbaev also owns the BN Munay and BN Consulting Companies which are involved in oil production and transportation.
President Nazarbev's nephew Qayrat Nazarbaev, also known as Qayrat Satybaldy-Uly, is Vice-President of KazakhOil Company. His wife Sara Nazarbaeva is President of the Republican Bobek Foundation for Children. One son-in-law, Rakhat Aliev, heads the Almaty Oblast Department of the Kazakh National Security Committee (the former KGB), while a second, Timur Kulibaev, is President of KazakhTransOil company.
SHYMKENT OIL REFINERY SUSPENDS OPERATIONS.
Kazakhstan's main oil refinery in Shymkent suspended operations this week. No official explanation for the stoppage has been given. Shymkent Oil Refinery is owned by Canada's Hurricane Hydrocarbons Company.
ALTERNATIVE NATIONAL ANTHEM PROPOSED.
Mazhilis deputy Valerian Zemliyanov told RFE/RL on 22 March that he has proposed the old song "Mening Qazaqstanym" (My Kazakhstan) as an alternative to the song "Elim Mening" (My Nation) which some deputies have proposed as possible new national anthem. The text of "Elim Mening" is believed to have been written by President Nazarbaev. The Kazakh Parliament is going to resume debates on the anthem next month.
KAZAKHSTAN CELEBRATES NAURYZ.
March 22 was a public holidy in Kazakhstan to mark the spring holiday of Nauryz. President Nursultan Nazarbaev participated in celebrations in Astana, while Almaty mayor Viktor Khrapunov presided over celebrations in the former capital.
RUSSIAN ANTHROPOLOGISTS RECONSTRUCT APPEARANCE OF KAZAKH WARRIOR.
Zeinolla Samashev, who heads Western Kazakhstan's Archaeologists Group, told RFE/RL on 23 March that the remains of an ancient Sak noble warrior found in the Altay mountains of Eastern Kazakhstan last year have been thoroughly researched at Russian Institute of Anthropology in Moscow. Samashev said Russian specialists have rebuilt the warrior's face and defined his DNA, which showed he was of mixed European and Mongolian origin. Samashev said preliminary research works shows that the warrior's appearance was half Asian (Mongolian type), half European.
The warrior was buried together with dozens of horses in the Altay mountains about 2,000 years ago. Due to the skilful burial techniques and icy surroundings, the body of the warrior and some of the horses were found in a very good condition. The warrior's age was defined as about 35-40. He had suffered numerous wounds and broken bones, including seven broken ribs, on different occasions.
KAZAKH COMMUNITY IN MOSCOW MARKS NAURYZ.
Moscow's Kazakh community gathered at Dom Sovetov on 22 March for a Nauryz celebration organized by the Kazakh Embassy, RFE/RL reported citing Kazakhstan Today News Agency.
KAZAKH PARLIAMENT DISCUSSED PROPOSED AMENDMENTS TO ITS STATUTES.
A joint session on 27 March of both chambers of Kazakhstan's parliament (Senate and Mazhilis) engaged in a lengthy and "very emotional" discussion of proposed amendments to the law on the parliament's statutes, RFE/RL correspondents reported. Those amendments reportedly define the rights and duties of parliament factions, but fail, however, to clarify who has the right to form such factions. The sesssion did not vote on the amendments but will resume the debate on 18 May.
WORKERS MOVEMENT PREVENTED FROM HOLDING PRESS CONFERENCE.
A press conference at the War and Peace Institute by leaders and members of the Almaty Workers' Movement to discuss the U.S. State Department's annual report on human rights was cancelled at the last minute on 27 March after Alfa-Bank, which owns the building in which the press conference was scheduled to be held, withdrew permission to do so.