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Kazakh Report: November 30, 1999

30 November 1999

According to the Kazakh Constitution, the Kazakh President should appoint 7 out of 39 members of the Parliament's Upper Chamber - Senate - himself. Correspondents of RFE/RL report that on November 29 Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev issued a Decree according to which the 7 new members of the Senate had been appointed. They are: 1. Pavel Atrushkevich - Vice-Chairman of Kazakhstan People's Assembly and Chief of the Kazakh Architecture Academy, 2. Oralbay Abdikarimov � Chief of the Kazakh state Anti-Corruption Committee, 3. Mukhtar Qulmukhambet - Chief of Ata-Mura Corporation, 4. Ivan Shchegolikhin - a well-known writer, 5. Gulzhan Qaragusova - a member of the previous Senate, 6. Nina Qayupova - Chairwoman of Presidential Mothers and Children Committee, 7. Shamshia Berkimbayeva - former Vice-Minister of Education. On November 30, Chairwoman of the Kazakh Central Election Committee Zaghipa Balieva handed the newly appointed Kazakh senators their certificates and badges.

Correspondents of RFE/RL quote Chief of Presidential Office Sarybay Qalmurzayev as saying that the meeting of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev with foreign diplomats scheduled for November 30 was moved to December 2; and the meeting will be held not in Astana as it had been scheduled before, but in Almaty. The schedule change was caused by the fuel shortage reportedly. Several international and domestic flights of Air Kazakhstan company were canceled or postponed due to the lack of the fuel, flights connecting former and current capitals of Kazakhstan included. The gasoline shortage was caused by military operations in the Russian Federation's breakaway republic of Chechnya. Russia remains the main gasoline source for oil-rich Kazakhstan. Kazakh Vice-Premier Danial Akhmetov told journalists on November 30 that the problem with fuel would be solved in early December.

Correspondents of RFE/RL report that members of Kazakhstan's Workers Movement held a session in Almaty on November 29. Madel Ismailov was re-elected as the movement's Chairman. Two years ago, Mr. Ismailov spent one year in jail for "insulting the dignity and honor of the Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev". During the Parliamentary elections held last month, he unsuccessfully tried to be elected as a Parliament member. He was registered at the Election Committee as a candidate from the Republican People's Party led by former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin then in exile. On November 29, Madel Ismailov confirmed that he remained in the Workers Movement and was elected as the movement's leader. Gennady Nikitin - leader of the workers in Kentau City, South Kazakhstan Oblast, was elected as Madel Ismailov's deputy.

Elderly citizens of Almaty gathered in front of the City Mayor's office on November 30. It was the usual demonstration of protest held by pensioners of the former Kazakh capital on the last day of each month. As usual, the protesters demanded their pensions to be increased and paid in time. They also protested the decision of the Kazakh-Belgian Joint Venture - Almaty Power Consolidated (APC) - to increase housing utility fees. APC controls the electricity and power supply system of the whole Oblast. Almaty Mayor Victor Khrapunov did not come out of his office reportedly. His deputy Qayrat Bokenov came out of the building and asked the pensioners to elect a delegation to contact the city Mayor.

Correspondents of RFE/RL report that the Pokoleniye movement, which unites all the elderly citizens and pensioners of the country, changed its status on November 29. At the gathering held that day, it was decided that the movement would be called the Union of Kazakhstani Organizations Protecting the Rights of the Country's Pensioners. The Pokoleniye movement with headquarters in Almaty led by Irina Savostina, used to have a few branches in Qaraghandy, Oskemen and some other towns and cities of Kazakhstan. It was also decided to continue the activities of the organization in order to persuade the government to increase the average pension volume every month due to the inflation rate. Also the Almaty Power Consolidated Company was accused by the movement's activists of "illegally increasing housing utility fees".

Train cars loaded with 80 tons of ferro-chrome were impounded at the Russo-Kazakh border in North West Kazakhstan on November 29. It turned out that a private company in Aqtobe City tried to smuggle the material to the Russian Federation. Preliminary investigations conclude that the company had managed to send more than 120 tons of ferro-chrome to Russia illegally earlier this year. Investigations are under way.

Marat Musatayev - Deputy Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources - held a press conference at the National Press Club in Almaty on November 29. According to Mr. Musatayev, many foreign companies working in Kazakhstan neglect environmental safety regulations and laws. He told journalists that some international oil companies working in West Kazakhstan do not use natural gas freed from the ground during oil-well drilling operations. International companies in West Kazakhstan burn millions of tons of natural gas adversely affecting the region's ecology every year, instead of using the gas properly, - said Kazakhstan's Deputy Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources.

According to information provided by correspondents of RFE/RL, hundreds of inhabitants of Shanyraq-2 District of Almaty organized mass action of protest on November 29. They demanded that the Almaty administration pay attention to the situation in the district. There has been no electricity, no heating in the area since last month. Schools and hospitals of the Shanyraq-2 district have been closed for a long period already. The demonstrators called upon the former capital's administration to start measures on improving the drastic situation faced by local citizens.

The fate of the Chief of the Kazakh Army's general staff, General Bakhytzhan Ertayev is again being discussed. Chief of the Kazakh presidential Office, Sarybay Qalmurzayev told journalists earlier this week that General Ertayev would be invited to stand trial for the illegal sale of 40 MiG-21 military jets to North Korea as a witness not as an accused person. But correspondents of RFE/RL report from Astana that General Bakhytzhan Ertayev may face changes due to Chapter 180 of the Kazakh Criminal Code, which means that he may be put to jail for a term between 3 and 10 years. General Ertayev's lawyer Alexander Galaisha told journalists that his client might be officially accused of his having been involved in illegal operations connected to the MiG-21 jet sale to Pyongyang. He added that General Ertayev was only implementing orders given to him by his "bosses" due to the resolution adopted by the Kazakh Cabinet. The Kazakh government and President Nazarbayev had officially stated several times that the were unaware of the sales. According to Ertayev's lawyer, General Ertayev had no idea about the final destination of the planes. Meanwhile, General Bakhytzhan Ertayev himself said in his interview given to KTK TV-channel this week that he had nothing to do with the sales operations at all.

On 26 November, while in Beijing on an official visit, President Nursultan Nazarbayev commented on the events in Oskemen, Eastern Kazakhstan. 22 persons were arrested in the city and accused of preparations for terrorism the previous week. President Nursultan Nazarbayev told correspondents of the Russian Itar-TASS agency that the event should have been approached not politically but from a criminal point of view. He added that the story would not affect Kazakh-Russian political and economic relations. Russian Premier Vladimir Putin told journalists earlier that the arrest of 12 Russian citizens and 10 ethnic Russians of Kazakhstan in Oskemen had been caused by activities which were not supposed to be taken seriously. "In case something serious was going on in Kazakhstan, Russian Federal Investigations Service would have learned about that immediately," - said the Russian Premier. Activists of Russia's Liberal Democratic Party led by Vladimir Zhirinovski, staged a demonstration of protest in front of the building of the Kazakh Embassy in Moscow on 25 November demanding all those arrested in Oskemen on November 19 to be released. They burnt down the Kazakh National Flag while holding the picket.

Correspondents of RFE/RL in Almaty quote Kazakh Foreign Minister Erlan Idrisov as officially saying that the visit of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev to Beijing, China recently was successful. According to the statement of the Kazakh Foreign Minister made on November 25, Kazakh leader Nursultan Nazarbayev and his Chinese counterpart signed an agreement on Chinese-Kazakh borders. President Nazarbayev told journalists in Beijing on 25 November that the agreement had been signed, taking mutual interests into account. Chinese President Jiang Zemin was handed the highest Kazakh award called Altyn Qyran (Golden Falcon) Order. It was also decided during the talks held between the two presidents that the Chinese side would allocate about $1 million for Kazakhstan as a free gift. The money will be spent for the construction of a new truck producing facility in Almaty. Discussion of one of the most important issues, namely, the project on a new pipeline construction, connecting West Kazakhstan with West China gave no exact results reportedly. It was also mentioned at the press conference held by the two leaders in Beijing that China was the third main investor to the Kazakh economy.

On November 25, Kazakh and Chinese experts decided that a joint Kazakh-Chinese group of experts should be established by the end of this year, in order to solve all the problems around Qara Ertis (Black Irtysh) river. The Ertis river called as Qara Ertis in Eastern Turkistan (Xin Jiang province) starts in West China and flows further to the Russian Federation through Kazakhstan. The river is one of the main water and energy supplies for Kazakhstan's East Kazakhstan and Pavlodar Oblasts , as well as for several industrial centers of Russia's West Siberia. Chinese authorities are carrying out the project of constructing several huge dams on the Qara Ertis river, in order to provide the growing industrial giants in the area with water and energy. Russian and Kazakh experts are sure that such a project can cause "disaster for the ecology and biological structure of Kazakhstan and West Siberia". Kazakh specialists asked their Chinese colleagues to start revising the dam construction project on the Qara Ertis river at a gathering held in the former capital of Kazakhstan on November 26. The Chinese side answered that the issue could not be solved fast due to the "lack of experience on the joint usage of the waters of rivers crossing borders of more than two countries".

Correspondents of RFE/RL report from Almaty that the Central Asia Consultant Foundation and Eurasia Foundation conducted a seminar for retired officers of the former capital on November 25. Rights and possible privileges for veterans of the Kazakh Army were explained to the retired officers. Leader of the Retired Officers Union � General Aytqaliy Essenqulov told correspondents of RFE/RL that the Union managed to get several representatives in the new Parliament elected earlier in October.

Members of the newly elected Kazakh Parliament gathered at the National Press Club in Almaty on November 25 and expressed their opinions on the land privatization issue. Parliament deputies Serik Abdrakhmanov and Isakhan Almakhanov said that they supported the idea of the Kazakh Ambassador to Italy, a well known Kazakh poet and leader of the National Congress Party - Olzhas Suleymenov - on the land ownership issue. Olzhas Suleymenov said earlier in October that Chapter 6 of the Kazakh Constitution should be changed and all the land should be privatized by Kazakhstani citizens. Former Chief of the Kazakh State Customs Committee, now a newly elected member of the Kazakh Parliament's Lower chamber (Mazhilis) - Ghaniy Qasymov, said that it was not a good idea for Kazakhstan at this time. According to Mr. Qasymov, in case the land in Kazakhstan was distributed among the citizens , Kazakhs arriving to Kazakhstan from abroad for permanent residence would not be able to get even a piece of the pie.the Not just one Chapter in the Constitution should be changed, said Ghaniy Qasymov at the gathering. He stated that the whole political system in the country should be drastically changed.

Sarybay Qalmurzayev - Chief of the Kazakh presidential Office met with journalists in Astana - the capital on November 23. He said that at the end of the Kazakh presidential two-day visit to Ulan-Bator, Mongolia, November 23, two major documents had been signed by the Kazakh and Mongolian leaders, namely, an agreement on cooperation between Kazakh and Mongolian Presidential offices, and that on cooperation between Kazakh and Mongolian State Security Councils. Also the situation of Kazakh repatriats from Mongolia in today's Kazakhstan was discussed by the two presidents reportedly. It was stressed by Sarybay Qalmurzayev that the Kazakh and Mongolian Presidents agreed that all ethnic Kazakhs immigrating to Kazakhstan from Mongolia for permanent residence should be provided jobs, housing and all kinds of social support.

Chief of the Kazakh presidential office also confirmed that the United states had imposed sanctions against the Kazakh Joint Stock Company Metallist and the Czech Company Agroplast for their having been involved in the "illegal sales of outdated Soviet era military jets to North Korea". He added that the Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev would try to "persuade U.S officials to lift the embargo", during his official trip to Washington D.C. later in December.

According Mr. Qalmurzayev, Chief of the Kazakh Army's General Staff, Bakhytzhan Ertayev will be asked to take part in the trial procedure on the MiG-21 sales to Pyongyang as a "witness" , not as an "accused person".

Chief of the Kazakh presidential Office failed to name the exact number of Chechen refugees who have arrived to Kazakhstan since the beginning of Russia's last military actions in that breakaway republic, confirming though that according to some sources, the number might vary between 2,000 and 10,000.

Correspondent of RFE/RL asked Mr. Qalmurzayev if rumors about Pope John Paul's possible visit to Astana were true. Chief of the Kazakh presidential Office answered that Pope John Paul had been officially invited to Astana to attend the Forum of the World's Confessions scheduled to be held in Astana next year. According to Sarybay Qalmurzayev, Pope John Paul had kindly agreed to attend the gathering in case his health state was good.

According to information provided by correspondents of RFE/RL in the former capital, leaders of all ethnic groups living in Kazakhstan and representing Kazakhstan Peoples Assembly, gathered in the Dostyq (Friendship) House of Almaty on November 23. The main issue discussed at the gathering was about the arrest of 22 terrorists in Oskemen, East Kazakhstan. On November 19, 22 armed terrorists - members of an underground organization called RUS' (Russia) had been detained in Oskemen. Preliminary investigations conducted by the Kazakh National Security Committee revealed that the organization had planned a revolt in Pavlodar, Leninogorsk and Oskemen cities of Kazakhstan, so that to announce some territories of Pavlodar and Eastern Kazakhstan Oblasts as Independent Russian Republic. 12 of the arrested persons were Russian citizens, 10 of them were permanent residents of Oskemen. Leaders of the ethnic groups inhabiting Kazakhstan officially accused the plans and actions of the underground movement. Leader of Zhetysu Cossacks Yuriy Bunakov said it was not good that the Kazakh authorities had spread the event all over the country, adding though that the arrested persons had nothing to do with the Cossacks of Zhetysu.

Reports from Eastern Kazakhstan say that the situation in the area is stable and calm. Leaders of LAD organization uniting ethnic Slavs of the country and Gennadiy Popov - leader of Upper Ertis Cossacks - said that their organizations had no ties with RUS'.

Russia's Federal Investigations Service provided Kazakh officials with data about Victor Kazimirchuk (not Kazimirchik, as it was reported before) - leader of the terrorists detained in Oskemen. According to the data, Victor Kazimirchuk (nickname Pugachiov) was born in 1947, is a permanent resident of Moscow, has criminal records, has been brought to trial twice accused of such crimes as robbery and theft. It was also officially reported by the Russian officials that the movement called RUS' had been dissolved a couple of years ago and had never been registered again in Russia.

Kazakh Ambassador in Italy, a well known poet and scientist Olzhas Suleyemenov addressed Kazakh citizens after hearing about the events in Oskemen. His address was broadcast by all the Kazakh mass media. Mr. Suleymenov said : " ... I do not believe that the action of the terrorists was organized by special services of the Russian Federation. But I am sure that it is the beginning of a disease in our society. To get rid of this disease we all, namely government, Mazhilis, political parties, have to start making joint efforts. I again became a witness of the truth of the motto saying: "Land should belong to people!". Only in case if every citizen of Kazakhstan is able to understand that Kazakhstan's land is a property of his or her own, we shall be able to get rid of the problem called separatism."

Correspondents of RFE/RL report from Almaty that Cornelius Wittebrod, an official representative of the European Union's Department on CIS, Central Asia and Caucasus, told journalists on November 23 that in general the Parliamentary elections held in Kazakhstan in October could be defined as "more democratic than the Presidential elections held in January this year". Mr. Wittebrod added though that the number of parties represented in the new Kazakh Parliament was too small.