21 May 1999
MEETING ON BARSKOON ACCIDENT IN BISHKEK.
Parliament deputy Jypar Jeksheev said at a news conference in Bishkek on 21 May that the conciliatory agreement between the Kyrgyz Government and the Canadian Cameco corporation signed in New York last January should be canceled. He also said that the Kyrgyz Government and the Kumtor Operating Company (KOC), a daugther company of Cameco, should pay all compensations promised to the victims of the chemical accident in Barskoon a year ago. Jeksheev announced that he would send a lot of documents on the accident, including several video documentaries, to international organizations and international courts.
The first anniversary of the accident was marked in Kyrgyzstan on 20 May with meetings and demonstrations. A truck with 20 tons of sodium cyanide belonging to the KOC plunged into the Barskoon river on 20 May 1998, spilling some 2 tons of chemicals. Four people died from poisoning last June, and about 5,000 people were hospitalized. Residents of the Barskoon, Tamga, Tosor and other villages held several demonstrations earlier this month to demand payment of all compensation, and accusing local authorities of corruption.
First Vice Prime Minister Boris Silaev of Kyrgyzstan signed an conciliatory agreement with the Cameco in New York last January, according to which Cameco should pay Kyrgyzstan $4.6 million, including $3 million in compensation money for local residents. Local experts say it is too little to compensate the damage.
President Bernard Michel of Cameco told Associated Press last January that the panic in Kyrgyzstan occurred partly because the government was ill-prepared to deal with negative media reports. "The situation was taken advantage of by opponents to the government which is, after all, the role of opposition in every country", Michel said. According to him, the inability of the Kyrgyz government to manage the situation is a holdover from the Soviet era, when nobody said anything if a disaster happened.
PARLIAMENTARY MEETING ON FALL OF THE SOM.
The parliamentary commitee on economical and budgetary issues discussed the most recent fall of the som on 21 May. First Vice Prime Minister Boris Silaev, Finance Minister Marat Sultanov, acting Chairman of the National Bank Ulan Sarbanov took part in the meeting. The government officials said the som has lost 40-percent of its value in last 2 months due to the negative activities of some Kyrgyz commercial banks. Parliamentarians have blamed the National Bank and the government for the decline in the value of the national currency. It was agreed to discuss the situation in other parliamentary commitees next week.
Exchange offices currently one US dollar for 42 soms now. The rate of the som was 30 soms to $1 early in March, and 17 soms to $1 last July.
PRESIDENT AKAYEV RECEIVES US MILITARY COMMANDER.
According to the presidential press service, President Askar Akayev received Anthony Zinni, a top US military commander, in Bishkek on 21 May. Bilateral relations between Kyrgyzstan and the US, the state of the Central Asian peacekeeping battalion and Kyrgyzstan's participation in NATO's Partnership for Peace program were discussed. According to General Nurdin Chomoyev, Chief of the Kyrgyz Military Staff, General Zinni also had a meeting at the Kyrgyz Defense Ministry, at which the possibility of training Kyrgyz servicemen in the US was discussed.
PRESIDENT AKAYEV RECEIVED IDB ELEGATION.
According to the presidential press service, President Askar Akayev received a delegation of the Islam Development Bank in Bishkek on 21 May. The state of cooperation between the IDB and Kyrgyz Government was discussed. The IDB has financed several projects in Kyrgyzstan since 1993, including repair of the Bishkek-Osh and Bishkek-Torugart highways, as well as reconstruction of the National Cardiological Center.
NEW JAPANESE LOAN TO KYRGYZSTAN.
The governmental press service announced that Prime Minister Amangeldi MurAliyev and Japanese Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan Hidekata Mitsuhasi exchanged notes in Bishkek on 21 May on a new $21-million loan from the Japanese government. According to Urkalyi Isaev, Director of the State Commitee on Foreign Investments, the first $14-million tranche will be received in a few weeks and will be used to support the state budget.
CATTLE TUBERCULOSIS FOUND.
Alexei Yermolov, spokesman for the Ministry of Emergencies, announced in Bishkek on 21 My that 280 cows in a farm in the Sokuluk district near Bishkek have been found sick with tuberculosis. A second examination is under way.
MEETING IN BARSKOON.
A mourning meeting marking the first anniversary of a chemical accident was held in the village of Barskoon on 20 May. According to Barskoon resident Turdubai Asankojoev, about 1,000 people participated, including parliament deputy for Barskoon Arslan Maliev, but no officials from either the district or the regional administration took part.
At a session of the Regional Assembly in the town of Karakol on 20 May, the Chairman of the regional commission on the aftermath of the accident, Omurbek Berbayev, said that the Canadian Kumtor Operating Company (KOC) has promised to give $7,000 compensation to residents of the Jeti-Oguz district. Also, the main road to the Kumtor gold mine will be repaired by the KOC soon. On 21 May, the opening ceremony of the four bridges along the road, rebuilt jointly by the KOC and the Kyrgyz Transport Ministry, will take place. Also, according to Berbayev, all residents of the Tosor and Chon-Jargylchak villages will undergo a medical examination on 21 May.
A truck with 20 tons of sodium cyanide belonging to the KOC crashed into the Barskoon river on 20 May 1998. Four people died and several thousands were poisoned. Residents of the Barskoon, Tamga, Tosor and other villages have held several demonstrations recently, demanding compensation and accusing local authorities of corruption.
BISHKEK STILL WITHOUT NATURAL GAS.
Director General of the Kyrgyzgas state company Vladimir Likhachev announced in Bishkek on 20 May that gas deliveries from Kazakhstan would be resumed only at the end of this week. A delegation of the company returned from Almaty the previous evening after reaching agreement with the Kazakh government that Kyrgyzstan will pay its debt of $2.2 million this week.
Gas deliveries to Bishkek were cut by the Belgian Intergas company, operating in Kazakhstan, on the evening of 17 May.
BREAD PRICES RISING.
The Government made a statement on 20 May on the recent rise in bread prices. According to it, prices have been increased due to fall of the som, Kyrgyz currency, and increase of the tariffs for electricity. The Government says there are 217,000 tons of grain in the government corn-bin and 160,000 tons of it will be sold soon. The prices of bread and flour have increased by 20-30 percent in the last few weeks.
RATE OF THE SOM.
Exchange offices in Bishkek sell one US dollar for 42.5-42.6 soms on 20 May. According to the press service for the National Bank, the rate of the som was 41.96 soms to $1 at the inter-bank market in Bishkek on 20 May and the National Bank sold $405,000.
Acting Chairman of the National Bank Ulan Sarbanov told our correspondent in Bishkek on 20 May the som is falling because of the negative activity of some commercial banks in the country. According to him, these banks have bought too many US dollars recently, much more than they need.
SEMINAR ON DRUG TRAFFICKING.
A two-day international seminar �The Great Silk Road: Fighting Drugs in Central Asia� ended in Bishkek on 20 May. Experts from Russia, Turkey, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan as well as from the five Central Asian States and representatives of the UN and OSCE took part. President Askar Akayev told the meeting on 20 May Central Asia should become a zone free of drugs. The seminar was sponsored by the Carnegie Endowment.
MEETING OF THE ECO.
According to the Foreign Ministry, a Kyrgyz delegation led by First Deputy Foreign Minister Alikbek Jekshenkulov is taking part in a meeting of the Economical Cooperation Organization, that began in Baku, Azerbaijan, on 20 May. Jekshenkulov will suggest holding the next ECO summit in 2000 in Bishkek. Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are members of the ECO.
IDB DELEGATION IN BISHKEK.
The presidential administration announced on 20 May that a delegation of the Islam Development Bank arrived in Bishkek that day. They will meet with President Askar Akayev, Prime Minister Amangeldi Muraliev, Minister of Transport and Communications Jantoro Satybaldiev and discuss possible IDB investments in Kyrgyzstan.
The "Vecherni Bishkek" daily carries a large article devoted to the first anniversary of the Barskoon accident in its 20 May edition. The paper writes that not all the victims have received compensation, and that First Vice Prime Minister Boris Silaev had signed a "humiliating" conciliatory agreement with the Canadian Cameco corporation.
The "Asaba" will publish on 21 May a large article on the last trial against the independent "Res Publica" weekly. The district court in Bishkek has sentenced "Res Publica" to pay 200,000-som compensation to Amanbek Karypkulov, President of the National TV and Radio Corporation. According to "Asaba," the Supreme Court will reject an appeal by "Res Publica," because Karypkulov is a retainer of President Askar Akayev.
VICTIMS PREPARE TO MARK BARSKOON DISASTER ANNIVERSARY.
On 20 May, residents of the Jeti-Oguz district of Issyk-Kul will mark the first anniversary of a chemical accident near Barskoon village. According to information from the administration of Barskoon, there will be a mourning meeting and rememberance of those who died. A session of the Regional Assembly will also be held in the town of Karakol on 20 May. Governmental assistance to the victims of the accident will be discussed among other items.
A group of women from the district handed the presidential administration, government and the parliament the letters of protest on 19 May. They say if the government and the Canadian company responsible for the accident do not pay all needed compensations to victims and their families, residents of the Jeti-Oguz dictsict could take personal actions against employees of the company. According to them, they have tried all other possibilities and could not receive compensations.
Residents of the Barskoon, Tamga and Tosor villages of the Jeti-Oguz district picketted the buildings of local authorities for several days early in May demanding consideration of their cases (see "Kyrgyz Report," 14 May 1999).
DEMONSTRATION IN BISHKEK.
About 50 members of the Kyrgyz Committee for Human Rights (KCHR) and their supporters picketted the parliament building in Bishkek on 19 May to demand the resignation of the Minister of Justice, Nelly Beishenalieva and re-registration of the KCHR with the Ministry of Justice. They had held a similar picket in front of the government building on 12 May, after which a special joint commission was formed the review the case (see "Kyrgyz Report," 14 May 1999). Minister Beishenalieva was included in the commission. According to the picketters, she is still against the registration of the KCHR.
BISHKEK STILL WITHOUT GAS.
First Vice Prime Minister Boris Silaev announced in Bishkek on 19 May there is no agreement yet on resumption of gas deliveries from Kazakhstan to Bishkek. A delegation of the Kyrgyzgas state company have been holding negotiations with Kazakh authorities in Almaty since 18 May.
Gas deliveries to Bishkek were cut by the Kazakh Intergas company in the evening of 17 May. Kyrgyzgas owes Intergas $2.2 million for gas transportation in 1997-1998. At the same time, Kazakhstan owes Kyrgyzstan more than $20 million for electricity supplies.