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Kyrgyz Report: May 14, 1999

14 May 1999

Residents of Kyrgyzstan's Issyk-Kul region blocked roads leading to the Kumtor gold mine from 4 - 8 May, RFE/RL's correspondent in the region, Sheishekan Janalieva reported on 13 May. The protesters also destroyed two lorries belonging to the Canadian-owned Kumtor Operating Company that is exploiting that deposit, causing damage estimated at $500,000.

The picketers were protesting the disappearance of some 780,000 som ($22,000) allocated by the Kumtor Operating Company as compensation for victims of the spill of toxic chemicals into the Barskoon river in May, 1998. That accident was caused by a lorry owned by the Kumtor Operating Company. Five police and two picketers were hospitalized in clashes when police tried to disperse the picketers, 34 of whom were detained. Other demonstrators then took three local officials hostage and released them only during the night of 9-10 May after their fellow picketeers were freed.

Criminal proceedings have been brought against one of the local officials who was taken hostage, Jeti-Oguz district administration head Bolotbek Kurmanbekov. He is accused of using the relief funds to purchase a house from a second local official, Omurbek Borubaev, who is first deputy head of Issyk-Kul regional administration.

A truck with 20 tons of sodium cyanide, belonged to the KOC, crashed into the Barskoon river, which flows into the Issyk-Kul lake, on 20 May 1998. 4 people died, about 2,600 people were poisoned, more than 1,000 of them were hospitalized, and more than 17,000 residents of the villages situated in the Barskoon valley applied for medical assistence between 20 May and 1 August. About 5,000 residents of the Barskoon village were evacuated to the northern side of the Issyk-Kul lake for a week in June, 1998.

According to the presidential press service, on 13 May President Askar Akayev received in Bishkek a delegation of the International Monetary Fund . Implementation of the Economic Structural Adjustment Facility (ESAF-2) program in 1999 was discussed. The IMF had given Kyrgyzstan $88 million for the 3-year program; the first $41 million of this was used in 1998. Due to the impact from the Russian crisis, the IMF recently increased the total sum up to $120 million.

According to the governmental press service, Prime Minister Amangeldi MurAliyev received on 13 May the other delegations of the IMF and World Bank. Problems of privatization as well as the banking system in Kyrgyzstan were discussed.

According to the presidential press service, President Askar Akayev received in Bishkek today Nelson Hunt, President of the US Hemco Company. Cooperation between the Hemco and Kyrgyz governmental bodies was discussed. The Hemco will take part in an international tender to develop the Terek-Kan gold deposit in the Jalal-Abad region.

In 1994, the Hemco formed the Hunt-Jalalabad joint-venture together with local firms in the Jalal-Abad region. The joint-venture has spent $1.5 million for geological survey works in the Jalal-Abad region.

Exchange offices in Bishkek sold one US dollar for 41 soms on 13 May. This is 2 times more than in last October. According to the press service for the National Bank, the rate of the som was 40.09 to the dollar at the inter-bank market on that day in Bishkek. In total, only $80,000 were sold that day.

About 400 people picketted the government building in Bishkek on 12 May. They were members of the Kyrgyz Commitee for Human Rights (KCHR) and their supporters. They demanded the resignation of the Minister of Justice, Nelly Beishenalieva, and to re-register the KCHR with the Ministry of Justice.

Head of the government administration, Ratbek Eshmambetov, adviser to the president, Askar Aitmatov, and department head in the presidential administration, Bolot Januzakov, received the Chairman of the KCHR, Ramazan Dyryldaev, and some other participants of the picket. It was been agreed at the meeting to form a special commission to investigate the case. Representatives of the presidential and governmental administrations, the KCHR, the Ministry of Justice and some other non-governmental organizations have been included in the commission.

The KCHR was founded in 1996 and was registered with the Justice Ministry the same year. Last October, the Ministry revoked the registration, saying there were some mistakes in the registration documents 2 years ago. For the last six months, leaders of the KCHR could not re-register their commitee with the Justice Ministry. But last April, the Ministry registered the other organization under the name "Kyrgyz Commitee for Human Rights" Its chairman is Sardarbek Botaliev, former deputy of Dyryldayev, who was sacked in 1998 after being accused of embezzlement. Minister Beishenalieva could not answer the KCHR why it had happened.

Jumakadyr Atabekov, head of the international department in the government, told our correspondent in Bishkek on 12 May that nothing would be changed in relations between Russia and Kyrgyzstan after the unexpected resignation of Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov on 12 May.

MP Tursunbai Bakir Uulu, Chairman of the State Commission on Human Rights, said that relations would be improved because Sergei Stepashin, appointed as caretaker, is President Boris Yeltsin's man and, there would be no more disagreements between the Russian government and the presidential administration.

MP Gani AsanAliyev told our correspondent on 12 May that the resignation is connected with the forthcoming elections in Russia. President Yeltsin is trying to strengthen his power on the eve of the elections and to use all the resources Stepashin gained when he was interior minister. According to Asanaliev, presidents of other CIS countries will try to do the same in the nearest future.

On 12 May President Askar Akayev received in Bishkek Yuri Yarov, Executive Secretary of the CIS. Reforms in the CIS were discussed. According to the presidential press service, President Askar Akayev told Yarov that the formation of free economic zones in the CIS would strengthen it. Yuri Yarov told journalists after the meeting that his proposals on reforms in the CIS would be discussed at a meeting of CIS prime ministers, to be held in Minsk on 6 June.

President Askar Akayev received in Bishkek on 12 May a delegation of British Parliament led by Donald Andersen. Bilateral relations between the two states were discussed. According to the presidential press service, it was agreed at the meeting that the main areas for cooperation would be in trade and economic relations, the fight against drug smuggling and inter-parliamentary cooperation.

The delegation met in Bishkek on that same day with Prime Minister Amangeldi Muraliev, Speaker of the parliamentary Legislative Assembly, Usup Mukambaev, and Speaker of the People's Assembly, Abdygany Erkebaev.

According to the Ministry of Defense, a Kyrgyz delegation led by Minister Myrzakan Subanov, departed on 12 May for Turkey. They will meet with the the Turkish minister of defense and other top military officials. The main item to be discussed will be the increase in the number of Kyrgyz servicemen trained in Turkish military colleges. About 20 Kyrgyz servicemen are now studying in Turkish colleges.

The conciliatory commission, formed by the presidential administration, the government, and both parliamentary houses, decided in Bishkek on 12 May to return to rural taxpayers100-million soms ( now about $2.5 million) in taxes that were over-collected by the government in 1998. The parliament decided last year to cut the land tax but the government continued to collect the tax in previous amounts. Finance Minister Marat Sultanov suggested that the commission to use the money for the needs of the government, but this was rejected.

The State Commission on Human Rights announced in Bishkek on 12 May that it had received a letter from the US Project Hope fund. The fund sent a one-million-dollar package of humanitarian aid, including 62,000 bottles of insulin for diabetics in the Osh region of Kyrgyzstan, on 4 December 1998, but nobody knows where this aid is now. According to the Commission, the Ministry of National Security will investigate the case. Deputy Minister of Health Care Viktor Glinenko told our correspondent in Bishkek that same day that the ministry did not know anything about the aid.

The exchange offices in Bishkek sold on one US dollar for 39.7 soms on 12 May. According to the press service for the National Bank, the rate of the som was 39.28 soms to the dollar at the inter-bank market that same day. In total, $106,000 were sold at the market and the National Bank did not take part in the trades.