21 January 2000
KAZAKH PRESIDENT RETURNED FROM VACATION.
President Nursultan Nazarbaev returned to Astana on 20 January after a one-week vacation in the United Arab Emirates. According to the Presidential Press Service, President Nazarbaev will will attend the 25 January CIS summit in Moscow.
LEADERS OF KAZAKHSTAN'S ETHNIC RUSSIANS HELD SESSION IN ALMATY.
Leaders and activists of organizations representing Kazakhstan's ethnic Russians held a session in Almaty on 20 January. Yuriy Bunakov, who heads the organization called "Russkaya Obshchina," called on ethnic Russians in Kazakhstan not to emigrate to Russia, saying that Russia faces huge economic and social problems itself and is not able to feed all the newcomers. Bunakov also said that all ethnic groups in Kazakhstan should be equally represented in the power structures of Kazakhstan, adding that ethnic Russians living in Kazakhstan started feeling like "step-children" after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
NEW ELECTRONIC NEWSPAPER STARTED FUNCTIONING IN KAZAKHSTAN.
An electronic newspaper called "Navigator" started functioning in Kazakhstan this week. The paper's Editor-in-Chief, Yurii Mezinov, told journalists on January 20 that the newspaper will be really independent and unbiased, reporting without giving any preferences to any political party or social group. One of the newspaper's editors, Aygul Omarova, said that the newspaper is supported by several businessmen. "Navigator"'s Deputy Editor-in-Chief Zhanibek Suleyev told RFE/RL correspondents that the newspaper will be similar to a news agency, adding that if it encounters problems in Kazakhstan, it will easily transfer its center to any foreign country via the Internet.
SOME ORGANIZATIONS IN KAZAKHSTAN PROTEST RUSSIAN MILITARY OPERATIONS IN CHECHNYA.
Several politicians held a press conference in Almaty on January 20 at which they expressed their negative attitude to the military operations of the Russian federal troops in Chechnya. Otegen Qabaziev, who heads the Communist movement called Party of Bolsheviks, Amantay-Qazhi Asylbek, the leader of the "Attan-Qazaqstan" movement, and well known dissident politician Karishal Asanov called on the population of Kazakhstan to protest against the "bloodshed in Chechnya." The leader of Kazakhstan's ethnic Chechens, Murad Akhmedov, told journalists that about 6,500 Chechen refugees have come to Kazakhstan since the beginning of the Russian "anti-terrorist" operation in the North Caucasus. Muradov added that all the Chechen refugees in Kazakhstan are receiving financial, moral and support in their "second motherland - Kazakhstan." Kazakh dissident Karishal Asanov told RFE/RL correspondents that "the policy of the Russian government led by Putin, concerning Chechnya might be defined as the continuation of the Russian Czarist Policy towards all non-Russian territories that were joined to the Russian empire by force."
KAZAKH HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST ACCUSES KAZAKH JUDGES OF CORRUPTION.
Kazakh human rights activist Erik Sultanbekov held a press conference on 20 January at which he acquainted journalists with results of a survey conducted by the movement "Tsivilizovanniy Mir" (Civilized World). A special commission of the movement evaluated the situation concerning courts and trials all over the country. The conclusion made by the commission was that "the judiciary system of the country protects the interests of corrupted circles among the Kazakh officials."
ALMATY CITY COUNCIL HELD HEARINGS ON TRACTEBEL.
Almaty's Municipal Maslikhat (Council) held hearings on the Almaty Power Consolidated (APC) Joint Kazakh-Belgian Venture (with Belgian Tractebel Company's interests involved), which controls the energy and heating supply system in Almaty Oblast. The Council's Special Commission made a report on January 19 which reportedly noted violations of the law in the activities of APC. Specifically, the Commission's members said that Heating Center #2 in the former Kazakh capital had been valued at $405 million, but it was sold to Tractebel for $5 million. Tractebel's debts to different Kazakh organizations and companies is about 9 billion Tenges ($1 equals 140 Tenges), but somehow the company had been freed from paying that debt, Commission members said. The scandal surrounding the Belgian Company broke earlier in December when the Belgian newspaper "Le Soir" published materials about the alleged bribe Tractebel leaders paid to top Kazakh officials through leading businessmen several years ago, in order to win the tender on the energy supply ownership in Almaty. The Almaty City Council adopted a resolution on January 19, according to which the Council will ask the Kazakh Government to suspend the agreement signed by Tractebel and the Kazakh Privatization and State Property Committee several years ago.
MIG TRIAL LAWYERS HOLD PRESS CONFERENCE.
As reported earlier, the MiG sale trial will be resumed on January 25 (see Kazakh News, Almaty, January 19). On January 19, the lawyers of the accused, Chief of the Kazakh Army's General Staff Bakhytzhan Ertayev and Kazakh businessman Alexander Petrenko, held a press conference in Almaty. Lawyers Vladimir Abiev and Alexander Pushechnikov told journalists that their clients are not guilty. They added that neither General Ertayev nor Alexander Petrenko had ever received money for the 40 former Soviet MiG-21 military planes sold from Kazakhstan to North Korea through the Czech Company Agroplast. The lawyers also said that the most powerful top officials had been involved in the deal. They claimed that Alexander Petrenko's life is in danger, as the real sellers of the aircraft might try to liquidate him in order to prevent him disclosing new details of the deal.
TRIAL AGAINST EDITOR-IN-CHIEF OF 'XXI CENTURY' NEWSPAPER WILL START ON JANUARY 24.
The Editor-in-Chief of the newspaper "XXI vek," Bigeldy Gabdullin, who is also Vice-Chairman of the Executive Committee of the People's Republican Party of Kazakhstan, will be brought to trial on January 24, RFE/RL correspondents in the former Kazakh capital reported on 19 January. Gabdullin is officially accused of obstructing the police. At the end of last month, Gabdullin forced police Major Lednev to leave the room where the Republican People Party's Executive Committee was holding its session. Major Lednev had entered the premises with a video camcorder to film the session's work. Gabdullin protested and forced him to leave the room. The Almaty City Police Department opened a criminal case against Bigeldy Gabdullin after the incident. The Chief of the Kazakh Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law, Yevgenii Zhovtis, told journalists at the National Press Club in Almaty on January 19 that police have the right to be present at any party's session and film it only after having presented special sanction papers signed by the City Prosecutor. Otherwise, police have no right even to be present at any session of any political organization, let alone to film the proceedings.
AIR KAZAKHSTAN STATE HOLDING MAY BE SOLD TO SWISS GROUP.
Representatives of the Swissair Group are currently in Almaty holding talks with Kazakhstan's Minister of Transport and Communications, Serik Burkitbaev. RFE/RL correspondents report that the negotiations may be about the possible purchase of a stake in Air Kazakhstan, which is experiencing serious financial difficulties and has debts estimated at $110 million.
OFFICIALS OF KAZAKHSTAN AND UZBEKISTAN EXCHANGED NOTES ON ETERNAL FRIENDSHIP.
RFE/RL correspondents quote sources in Kazakhstan and in neighboring Uzbekistan as reporting that Uzbekistan's Deputy Foreign Minister Atkhan Bekmuradov and Kazakhstan's Ambassador to Uzbekistan, Omirzaq Ozbekov, exchanged notes on eternal friendship between the two Central Asian countries at a special ceremony in Tashkent on January 19. The Parliaments of both countries have ratified the treaty on eternal friendship signed by Kazakh, Kyrgyz and Uzbek presidents six years ago.
KAZAKH MIG TRIAL POSTPONED AGAIN.
The MiG sale trial, which should have resumed on 18 January, has been postponed again due to the health condition of one of the accused persons, Bakhytzhan Ertaev Chief of the Kazakh Army's General Staff, and will resume on January 25. General Ertaev was hospitalized last week after suffering a minor heart attack in court. He and Kazakh businessman Alexander Petrenko are officially accused of having been involved in the sale of former Soviet MiG-21 military jets to North Korea. Lawyers for General Ertaev and Mr. Petrenko say that their clients were just implementing the instructions given by the top officials of Kazakhstan.
ACTIVE MEMBER OF REPUBLICAN PEOPLE'S PARTY HELD PRESS CONFERENCE IN ALMATY.
Bauyrzhan Zharylqapov, an active member of the Kazakh Republican People's Party led by the former Kazakh Premier Akezhan Kazhegeldin from exile, held a press conference in Almaty on January 18. Zharylqapov said that Kazakhstan's current leadership, including President Nursultan Nazarbaev, violate the Kazakh laws and Constitution on a regular basis. He also said that the situation in the Kazakh jails and labour camps is "far from [meeting] normal standards," adding that prisoners' rights are abused every day. According to Zharylqapov, special letters about instances of human rights abuses committed by the Kazakh officials have been sent to the OSCE, UN and US.
SOME ELECTRONIC MESSAGES AND FAXES TO BE MONITORED BY THE KAZAKH NATIONAL SECURITY COMMITTEE.
RFE/RL correspondents report that on January 18, Almaty's "31 KANAL" TV-chanel acquainted Almaty citizens with a decree adopted by the Kazakh government on December 20, 1999. According to the decree, the Kazakh National Security Committee has the official right to monitor electronic messages (E-mail), Internet access, faxes and telephone conversations of any organization, company, firm or person found by the Committee as "suspicious." The Kazakh National Security Committee is the former KGB. Its department in Almaty City is headed by the Kazakh President's son-in-law, Rakhat Aliev. A special state board, called Telecommunications Billing Center, which was established in December last year, will monitor the Internet (E-mail) messages and faxes.
ALMATY FAMILIES WITH LOWER INCOMES WILL RECEIVE ALLOWANCES.
Deputy Chief of the Almaty Labor and Social Protection Department Rabandiar Maymaqov told journalists on January 18 that the Almaty City administration and his department will start paying social allowances to families with lower incomes. Every family with a monthly income less than 3,000 Tenges ($20) will qualify for the social allowance. It is not clear when the program will start being implemented.