7 April 2001
LOWER PARLIAMENT CHAMBER APPROVES STATE BUDGET.
On 5 April the Mazhilis (the lower chamber of Kazakhstan's parliament) approved the draft law on the state budget for 2001 and sent it to the Senate (Upper Chamber). The Mazhilis engaged in an emotional debate of a proposal to allocate 10 billion Tenges for social needs of the country but failed to reach a decision on the issue. That failure prompted deputy Serik Abdrakhmanov to leave the session in protest.
The Mazhilis also approved a draft law temporarily exempting the media from paying VAT.
NEW KAZAKH-FRENCH JOINT VENTURE ESTABLISHED.
An agreement between the French company Bouygues-Offshore and Kazakhstan's KazakhOil establishing a new Kazakh-French Oil Producing Joint Venture was signed in Astana on April 4. According to KazakhOIL President Nurlan Balghymbaev, the newly established joint venture will engage in oil producing operations in Western Kazakhstan. Bouygues-Offshore and KazakhOil will each own 50 per cent of the joint venture's shares. Balghymbaev told journalists after the signing ceremony that the new company will also engage in renovation of oil-field infrastructure in western Kazakhstan.
NEW MOVEMENT CALLED "KAZAKHSTAN WITHOUT NAZARBAYEV" WILL BE CREATED IN ALMATY.
The leader of Zhangyru movement, Dauren Satybaldy, told RFE/RL on April 5 that a group of 15 Kazakh politicians has begun preparing to launch a new political movement called "Kazakhstan without Nazarbaev." Satybaldy said the movement will be similar to that called "Ukraine without Kuchma" in Ukraine. He also said that the organizers were inspired to create such a movement by the drastic social and economic situation in Kazakhstan today.
BEKZAT SATTARKHANOV'S BIRTHDAY MARKED IN KAZAKHSTAN.
The twenty-first birthday of Kazakh boxerBekzat Sattarkhanov was marked in Kazakhstan on April 4. Bekzat was the youngest gold medal champion in the Sydney Olympics last year. He died in a traffic accident in Shymkent on December 31, 2000.
KAZAKH PARLIAMENTARY DELEGATION IN HAVANA.
According to the press service of Kazakh Parliament, a parliament delegation led by Mazhilis chairman Zharmakhan Tuyaqbaev is in Cuba to participate in a session of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. Representatives of the Belarus, Iraqi, Israeli and South African Parliaments are also taking part. The session is devoted to the future development of relations between the Parliaments of those states.
KAZAKH NATIONAL SECURITY COMMITTEE ON KAZHEGELDIN
The head of the Kazakh National Security Committee's Department of Investigations, General Qozy-Korpesh Qarbyzov, told journalists in Astana on April 4 that his Department is aware of the whereabouts of former Kazakh Premier Akezhan Kazhegeldin. He added that additional accusations of bribery and abuse of power were brought against Kazhegeldin in November last year. According to Qarbyzov, the former Kazakh Premier is believed to have engaged in bribery. He said that investigations of the "crimes committed by Akezhan Kazhegeldin" are underway.
Akezhan Kazhegeldin is the leader of the Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan. He has been living abroad since 1998, after accusations of alleged tax evasions and financial mishandling were brought against him by Kazakh officials.
NEW PERIODICAL FOR KAZAKH YOUTH BEGAN POUBLICATION.
Leaders and activists of Kazakhstan's youth movement held a press conference on April 4 where they announced the publication of the first issue of a new newspaper, ASAR, in Kazakhstan. The newspaper will also be available on the Internet. The periodical will be printed for Kazakhstan's younger generation.
SOCIAL AND POLITICAL SITUATION IN KAZAKHSTAN DISCUSSED AT SEMINAR IN ALMATY.
On April 4 the Almaty-based Central Asian Political Research Institute held a special seminar on the social and political situation within Kazakhstan. Kazakh politician Dos Koshim told RFE/RL that one of the most important issues discussed at the seminar was the status of Kazakhs in general, and Kazakh repatriates in particular, as well as the role of the Kazakh language in Kazakhstan today.
According to Koshim, the role of the Kazakh language is still very weak. One of the main reasons for this, Koshim said, is that some non-Kazakh citizens of Kazakhstan do not regard Kazakhstan as an independent state and as their motherland.
FIRST RESULTS OF SOUTH BORDER STRENGTHENING PROGRAM ANNOUNCED.
Kazakh Border Guard Service officials have announced the first results of the state program to strength Kazakhstan's southern borders. The program was launched in order to prevent a possible intrusion of armed religious radicals into Kazakh territory from neighboring Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Some analysts believe that the armed religious radicals opposing Uzbekistan's current regime could re-start their activities in the Ferghana valley this summer. According to the official report made by the Kazakh Border Guarding Service on April 2, in one week, six Tajik nationals without proper documents were detained by Kazakh police in Qyzyl Orda Region, two citizens of Uzbekistan were stopped by Kazakh border guard officers on the Kazakh-Uzbek border while trying to cross the border illegally, two citizens of Afghanistan illegally living in Qaraghandy, Central Kazakhstan, were detained, a Kyrgyz citizen with 8 kilograms of marijuana was arrested in Zhambyl Oblast, and an Uzbek lady trying to smuggle 200 liters of pure alcohol was detained in Mangystau Oblast Western Kazakhstan.
TRIAL OF SOLDAT NEWSPAPER IS OVER.
The trial of Ermurat Bapi, the Editor-in-Chief of the newspaper "SolDat," and of Kazakh dissident historian Karishal Asanov was resumed with a delay of four hours on 3 p.m. local time on April 3. Karishal Asanov's article criticizing President Nursultan Nazarbaev was printed in "SolDat" last summer on the eve of Nazarbaev's 60th birthday. At the session on April 2, both Ermurat Bapi and Karishal Asanov pleaded not guilty.
On 3 April, Judge Bakhytzhan Shoshyqbaev found Karishal Asanov "NOT GUILTY." Shoshyqbaev said Karishal Asanov wrote the article criticizing Nazarbaev not for "SolDat" but for some web-pages in the Internet, and "SolDat" editor Bapi took Asanov's article from the Internet and reprinted it. Bapi was found "GUILTY" of "printing an article hurting the dignity and honor of the president of Kazakhstan" and sentenced to one year's imprisonment, but due to the recent Presidential Decree on Amnesty he was released from the Court Room.
Bapi told RFE/RL that he did not agree with the verdict, adding that he will appeal first to the Almaty City Court and then to Kazakhstan's Supreme Court.
On 29 March, the prosecutor had asked Judge Bakhytzhan Shoshyqbaev to sentence Bapi to two years of prison, and Asanov as one year of jail.
1.5 KILOGRAMS OF HEROIN CONFISCATED IN SHYMKENT FROM A CITIZEN OF ALMATY.
On April 2, police in Shymkent in southern Kazakhstan confiscated about 1.5 kilograms of heroin from an ethnic Chechen permanently residing in Almaty. Luiza Gadjieva, a spokeswoman for the South Kazakhstan Regional Department of Interior Affairs told RFE/RL four similar cases were registered in Shymkent area during the last week. Investigations are underway.
PEOPLE'S FRONT OF KAZAKHSTAN ASKED FOR PERMISSION TO HOLD MASS GATHERING ON APRIL 14.
On April 3, the leaders of the new political alliance, the People's Front, which unites the Alash, Azamat, Communist Party, Zheltoqsan and others, officially asked the Almaty Mayor to allow them to hold a mass gathering in the city center on April 14. Rysbek Oqu-Uly, one of the alliance's leaders, told RFE/RL that the main aim of the mass gathering is to protest the pressure exerted by Almaty officials on some periodicals, political parties and NGOs.
KAZAKH PRESIDENT HONORED.
On 30 March President Nursultan Nazarbaev received the title of "The Most Prominent Engineer of the 20th Century." That title, together with a special medal and diploma, was bestowed on him by Boris Gusev, Chairman of the International Engineering Institute, at a special ceremony in Astana.
TURKISH PARLIAMENTARY DELEGATION HELD TALKS WITH CHAIRMAN OF KAZAKH PARLIAMENT'S UPPER CHAMBER.
On March 30, a Turkish Parliamentary delegation led by parliament chairman Omer Izgi held talks with Oralbay Abdikarimov, the Chairman of the Senate, the upper chamber of the Kazakh Parliament, on Kazakh-Turkish ties and the prospects for further cooperation. Izgi said that Kazakh-Turkish relations have a centuries-long history. He added that Turkey is always ready to assist Kazakhstan in any sphere. Oralbay Abdikarimov, in his turn, said that Kazakhstan plans to be admitted to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe as an observer. He added that Kazakhstan might use its close relations with Turkey in order to reach that goal.
On 29 March, Izgi addressed the Kazakh parliament in Astana, expressing his approval of the proposed creation of a Parliamentary Union of Turkic countries. Izgi also met on 29 March with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev.
ELDERLY CITIZENS OF ALMATY STAGE MONTHLY PROTEST.
On March 30, elderly citizens staged a mass gathering in front of the Almaty city administration. They do so every month in order to protest against Almaty Mayor Viktor Khrapunov's policies towards the elderly. As usual, the demonstrators demanded the restoration of all the privileges they used to have a couple of years ago, including the right to travel on public transportation free of charge.
Also on 30 March, the Almaty branch of the Communist Party held a session at which speakers raised the possibility that Khrapunov may have been involved in corruption and organized crime. They cited documents according to which Khrapunov participated in a $38 million deal on transferring ownership of the energy and heating control system of Almaty from the Belgian Tractebel Company to that of Kaztransgaz company in 1999.
OIL WORKERS IN WEST KAZAKHSTAN PLAN STRIKE.
According to Kazakhstan Today News Agency, employees of the CCC company working in the Qashaghan natural gas field in western Kazakhstan are going to start a strike. But Akhmed Refai of CCC told RFE/RL by phone on 30 March that he had no information about a possible strike and that there are no grounds for such action. CCC is a Lebanese Oil and Gas Company with about 3,000 Kazakh employees. In August last year several hundred Kazakh workers of the company staged a strike, demanding their salaries be increased and work conditions improved.
GROUP OF KAZAKH POLITICIANS RETURNED FROM LONDON.
A group of Kazakh politicians arrived in Almaty from London on March 29. Amangeldy Kerimtaev of the Republican People's Party told RFE/RL that politicians from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan gathered in London on March 26-27 where they established the Central Asian Forum of Democratic Forces. Former Kazakh Premier Akezhan Kazhegeldin and the Chairman of the Kyrgyz Committee on Human Rights, Ramazan Dyryldaev, took part in the session at which the social, economic and political situation in Central Asian countries, human rights issues and problems faced by mass media in the region were discussed. Kerimtaev also said that the Central Asian politicians held meetings and talks with British politicians and NGOs.
OFFICIALS OF SHANGHAI FORUM STATES MEET IN ALMATY.
Representatives of five signatory states to the Shanghai Five Treaty (China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan) started talks in Almaty on March 27. The talks are expected to last till April 4. The main issues discussed will be implementation of agreement signed by the Shanghai Five leaders in 1995 and 1999. Under the agreements on "Mutual Understanding on Border Issues," the five countries agreed to establish an arms-free zone in the territories of 100 kilometers near the former Chinese-Soviet borders. The Shanghai agreement is expected to be valid till 2020, after which it will be prolonged with possible amendments every five years. The agenda for the Shanghai Forum summit to be held in June 2001 was also discussed.
CONFERENCE ON RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE AND MUTUAL UNDERSTANDING HELD IN ALMATY.
A Conference on Tolerance between Different Religions and Faiths within Kazakhstan, was held in Almaty on March 27-28. It was organized by religious organizations in the city. The only politicians who attended the conference was the leader of Kazakhstan's Communists, Serikbolsyn Abdildin. The Kazakh Parliament is expected to discuss possible amendments to the Kazakh Law on Religions and Faiths in the nearest future.
REPUBLICAN PEOPLE PARTY HELD ROUND TABLE DISCUSSION ON U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT'S ANNUAL REPORT ON HUMAN RIGHTS.
The Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan held a round table in Almaty on 28 March attended by several political parties and movements to discuss the U.S. State Department's annual report on human rights. Officials from foreign missions and Embassies and representatives of NGOs and international organizations also participated in the discussion. The acting Chairman of the Republican People's Party's Executive Committee, Amirzhan Qosanov, told RFE/RL that representatives of Kazakhstan's political parties aligned in the Forum of Kazakhstan's Democratic Forces, held the round table discussion as a response to the anti-American statement made by Kazakh Foreign Ministry and pro-government parties (Otan, Civic and Agrarian parties). It was reported at the 28 March round table discussion that the U.S. State Department's annual report was "accurate and based upon facts really taken place in Kazakhstan." Earlier this month the Kazakh Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that U.S. State Department's information on the human rights situation in Kazakhstan was "biased and based upon rumours."
KAZAKH DEFENSE MINISTER HELD SESSION FOR FOREIGN MILITARY ATTACH�S.
On March 28, Kazakhstan's Defense Minister Lieutenant General Sat Toqpaqbayev held a session in Astana for foreign military attach�sin Kazakhstan. Toqpaqbaev said that the Kazakh Army will continue implementing the reforms started in 1991. He mentioned that Kazakhstan's Defense Forces have been already divided betwen several military districts. He said in future some top officials in the Kazakh armed will be civilians, not military officers.