14 July 2000
POLICE DETAIN FORMER KAZAKH PREMIER.
Former Premier Akezhan Kazhegeldin, who is chairman of the Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan, was detained at Rome's Leonard da Vinci airport when checking at the passport control on his arrival from London, UK late on 12 July. He was brought to the airport police department, Kazakhstan's official Khabar TV channel reported on 13 July. The news was also reported by Reuters, ITAR-TASS and other agencies. Around midnight on 12 July Kazhegeldin was reportedly told that the Kazakh authorities had asked Interpol to arrest him.
Kazhegeldin's lawyers are with him, although he is not allowed to use his mobile phone. Kazakh officials, namely duty officers at the Kazakh National Security Committee and the General Procuracy, refuse to comment on Kazhegeldin's detention, citing a lack of information.
Leaders and activists of the Republican People's Party held a meeting in Almaty on 14 July, at which party leader Ghaziz Aldamzharov said he believes that Kazhegeldin's detention was initiated by the Kazakh authorities in order to get rid of the main possible witness in the oil money laundering scandal known in Kazakhstan and elsewhere as KAZAKHGATE.
At the beginning of this month, several American periodicals, including the "Wall Street Journal," "Newsweek" and the "Washington Post," published materials on the alleged illegal activities of U.S. businessman James Giffen, also known as an economic counselor to Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev, who reportedly might have been accused by American Justice Department of illegal financial transactions he conducted in order to pump the private Swiss bank accounts of President Nazarbayev and former premiers Akezhan Kazhegeldin and Nurlan Balgimbaev with "dirty dollars."
Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan member Nurbolat Massanov told journalists on 14 July that some international organizations and the U.S. State Department have expressed their concern over Kazhegeldin's detention. Communist Party of Kazakhstan leader Serikbolsyn Abdildin said he is convinced Kazhegeldin's detention "was organized by Kazakh authorities." Abdildin added that in doing so President Nursultan Nazarbaev was trying to distract society's attention from the accusations put forward against himself.
Kazakhstan's Embassy in Rome does not answer any phone calls. Meanwhile officials at the Italian Embassy in Almaty announced that detailed comments on the Kazhegeldin case will be made on July 15.
COTTON FARMS IN SOUTH KAZAKHSTAN FACE WATER SHORTAGE.
According RFE/RL correspondents, cotton farms in southern Kazakhstan currently face a serious water shortage caused by Kyrgyzstan curtailing its water supply to Kazakhstan in retaliation for the latter's failure to supply Kyrgyzstan with coal. Astana and Bishkek signed a special agreement last year on exchanging coal for irrigation water, but Kazakhstan reportedly failed to meet its obligations to deliver coal.
WELL-KNOWN KAZAKH LAWYER ARRESTED.
Almaty city police arrested well-known lawyer Anatolii Ginzburg this week on charges of involvement in unspecified criminal activities in 1994, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported on 13 July. His arrest was made just after his decision to defend Colonel Anatolii Adamov, arrested on suspicion of involvement in the April assassination of arms export official Talghat Ibraev. Ibraev was shot dead in front of his home in mid-April (see "RFE/RL Kazakh Report," 23 June 2000).
BREAD PRICE RISES IN KAZAKHSTAN'S 'BREAD BASKET' REGION.
Qazhibay Qabyl, who is an independent journalist from Kokshetau, told RFE/RL by phone on13 July that bread prices in that area, Kazakhstan's main grain producer, have suddenly been raised by 25 per cent. The local population was not informed in advance of the price hike, which Qabyl attributed to rising prices for gasoline, electricity and flour.
U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE'S ADVISOR FOR CIS VISITS ASTANA.
Ambassador Stephen Sestanovich, who is the U.S. Secretary of State's Advisor on the CIS, visited Astana on July 11. where he held talks with Prime Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev, Kazakhstan Army Chief of General Staff Alibek Qasymov, and Minister of Information and National Concord Altynbek Sarsenbaev.
At a subsequent press conference, Sestanovich told journalists "We have reviewed economic issues, including Kazakhstan's relations with international financial institutions, its plans for accession to the WTO, its plans for managing oil revenues... We reviewed our cooperation in the area of energy development and transportation... The premier emphasized the importance of developing multiple pipelines for Kazakhstan." As for his meeting with Army Chief of General Staff Qasymov, Sestanovich said "We have reviewed the developing cooperation between our Ministries of Defense... Our specialists will be meeting next week to prepare exercises of Tsentrazbat here in Kazakhstan in September." Sestanovich also said that during his meeting with Kazakh Minister of Information and National Concord Sarsenbaev he discussed issues related to the role of Kazakhstan, the OSCE and the United States, including the OSCE's recommendations concerning last year's parliamentary elections in Kazakhstan.
KAZAKHSTAN'S INTERIOR MINISTRY DENIES 'NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA' REPORT.
Kazakh Interior Ministry Press Service official Argyn Ospanov told RFE/RL on 12 July that reports of the alleged escape of two members of Victor Pugachev (Kazimirchuk) group from jail are "far from the truth." Quoting Kazakhstan's "Ekspress K" newspaper, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 12 July reported that two members of Pugachev's group, Konstantin Sementsov and Viktor Chernyshev had managed to escape from a labour camp in Arqalyq, in northern Kazakhstan.
Ospanov also told RFE/RL that all the 10 members of the Pugachev group, including Victor Kazimirchuk himself, received the decision of Eastern Kazakhstan Oblast Court revising the verdicts handed down on them by Oskemen City Court earlier this year. Viktor Kazimirchuk's 18 year prison term was shortened to 15 years, while those of Sementsov and Chernyshev were each cut from 17 to 13 years. In addition, they will not spend the first five years of their jail term in a prison cell, but will be sent to labour camps to serve their terms there. The terms of all other members of the group were also shortened.
Kazakhstan's special services arrested 22 persons in Oskemen last November, of whom 12 were citizens of the Russian Federation. The investigation proved that the arrested persons had planned the secession of East Kazakhstan Oblast and the creation of a so-called Russian Altai Republic. All the members of the group are still being kept in Oskemen Central Jail. None of them has ever been sent to Arqalyq or elsewhere in Kazakhstan, Ospanov said.
TWO DRUGS TRAFFICKERS ARRESTED IN ALMATY.
Two persons, one citizen of Tajikistan, and the other a Kyrgyz national, have been arrested in Almaty by the Almaty Department of Kazakhstan's National Security Committee. Ten kilograms of heroin were confiscated from them. Investigations are underway.
ALMATY CITY COURT LEFT VERDICTS ON FORMER BODYGUARDS OF KAZHEGELDIN UNCHANGED.
On July 11, the Almaty City Court reviewed the criminal case against Satzhan Ibraev and Piotr Afanasenko, who are former bodyguards of Akezhan Kazhegeldin, but left the verdicts against them unchanged. Both men were sentenced by Medeu District Court in April to 3.5 years in jail on charges of illegal weapons possession (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 April 2000). Their lawyers told RFE/RL that their clients will appeal to the Supreme Court of Kazakhstan. Both the lawyers and leaders of Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan, of which the two men are both members, claim that the verdicts were politically motivated.
REPUBLICAN PEOPLE'S PARTY LEADERS CONVENE PRESS CONFERENCE.
At a press conference in Almaty on 12 July, leading members of the Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan said they consider Kazakhstan's aspirations to guest membership of the Council of Europe are premature. Amirzhan Qosanov and Bigeldy Gabdullin said that Kazakhstan already has experience with membership in the OSCE. The latest events in Kazakhstan, they said, when "opposition leaders are oppressed, independent newspapers are closed and parliamentary elections are criticized by all the international observers and the OSCE," show that Kazakhstan is not ready to become a member of international organizations such as the OSCE and the Council of Europe.
OSCE DELEGATION VISITS ALMATY.
An OSCE delegation arrived in Almaty from Astana late on 10 July on the first leg of a tour of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The representatives of 12 European states met with leaders and activists of Kazakh NGOs, political parties and movements, including the opposition. The head of the OSCE office in Almaty, Ulrich Schoening, told journalists that the OSCE delegation met in Astana on 10 July with Kazakhstan's Foreign Minister Erlan Idrisov to discuss further cooperation between Kazakhstan and the OSCE. Regional security in Central Asia and democratic reforms in Kazakhstan were also discussed.
OIL MONEY SCANDAL TO CONTINUE?
Former Vice Premier Baltash Tursynbaev, who is now in opposition to Nazarbaev's regime, told RFE/RL on 11 July that another article on the possible involvement of top Kazakh leaders in oil money laundering has been published in the Italian newspaper "La Reppublica." The chief of the Kazakh presidential office, Sarybay Qalmurzaev, and Presidential Press Secretary Lev Tarakov declined to comment on reports of the oil money scandal involving Kazakh presidential advisor James Giffen and Kazakh top officials. Meanwhile Ghaziz Aldamzharov, chairman of the Executive Committee of the Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan, told RFE/RL that more information about the scandal will be published in foreign press soon.
EDITOR OF 'SOLDAT' HOLDS PRESS CONFERENCE.
Ermurat Bapi, who is editor-in-chief of the newspaper "Soldat," told a press conference in Almaty on 11 July that the entire print-run of the most recent issue of the paper was printed in Rubtsovsk in the Russian Federation, but was subsequently impounded at the Russian-Kazakh border by Kazakh customs officers. Bapi said that move was politically motivated, as that issue of the paper was mainly devoted to President Nazarbaev's 60th birthday and contained materials criticizing the president.
PRESIDENT NAZARBAEV LEAVES VACATION.
President Nursultan Nazarbaev has left on vacation, RFE/RL correspondents in Astana reported on 10 July. Nazarbaev has not yet commented on Western press articles implicating him in corruption. The only leading official to have done so is former Prime Minister Nurlan Balghymbaev, who denied any wrongdoing. Officials in the presidential administration contacted by RFE/RL declined to comment on the allegations.
DEFENSE MINISTER SAT TOQPAQBAEV STARTS OFFICIAL VISIT TO TURKEY.
Defense Minister Sat Toqpaqbaev left on 10 July for Turkey where he will stay for three days. During his visit , Toqpaqbaev will meet Turkish leaders, including his Turkish counterpart.
PARLIAMENT DEPUTY CRITICIZES NEW LAW ON PRESIDENT.
Serik Abdrahmanov, who is a deputy to the Majlis (the lower chamber of parliament) held a press conference in Almaty on 10 July for the "Navigator-Internet" electronic paper at which he criticized the Law on the First President adopted recently by the Kazakh Parliament.