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Kyrgyz Report: June 25, 1999

25 June 1999

A session of the parliamentary People�s Assembly began on 25 June to consider amendments to the law on state budget for 1999, proposed by the government. Finance Minister Marat Sultanov told deputies that expected revenues should be 7,400,000,000 soms in 1999 (about $168 million), more than was fixed last January by 753 million soms. Expenditures should be 8,625,000,000 soms (about $196 million), 1,115 million soms more than had been fixed in the law. Sultanov said the expenditures are rising due to inflation, the devaluation of the som, increased funding for the army and border guards, leasing of planes, and a rise in the foreign debt. Revenues could be increased by raising tariffs for electricity, collecting more taxes, and increasing the income from the country's free economic zones.

Sultanov said all calculations are based on the current exchange rate of 44 soms to the $1. The inflation rate in the first 5 and a half months of 1999 is 27 percent and is expected to be 32 percent by the end of the year. Sultanov said the government cannot pay back wages and pensions according to the timetable worked out by the government in January. He said back wages for last year could be paid only after receiving a new loan from the Asian Development Bank. The government�s internal debt is about 550 million soms (about $13 million) now.

Deputies have begun to discuss the amendments.

About 100 employees of the Kara-Balta mining complex picketed the government building in Bishkek again on 25 June. They demanded the release of the complex's Director General, parliament deputy Jalgap Kazakbaev. Kazakbaev was arrested during the night from 21 - 22 June, just before the scheduled opening of the People�s Assembly�s session, which began only in the afternoon of 23 June. The chairman of the parliamentary committee on legal affairs, Absamat Masaliev, sent a letter to the Prosecutor General on 22 June, saying the arrest was illegal and a violation of Clause 56 of the Constitution on the status and authority of a member of parliament the parliamentary immunity. Also, only the Central Election Commission has the right to strip a deputy of his parliamentary immunity, and the commission has not taken any decision on any deputy yet, nor has the guilt of any deputy been proved. .

Prosecutor General Asanbek SharshenAliyev sent a letter to the Assembly on 24 June, saying that Masaliev's request was incorrect and that he would answer the parliamentarians� questions only when they will be formulated correctly.

According to the public referendum held in Kyrgyzstan on 17 October 1998, parliament members should have immunity only during the parliamentary sessions, but the constitution and laws have not yet been amended to that effect.

Two other members of the People�s Assembly were arrested in June: Boris Vorobyev on 2 June and Marat Kalmurzaev on 23 June. All the three are accused of embezzlement, corruption, tax evasion.

President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan criticized the activity of the Central Asian Economical Union during the press conference held in Bishkek on 24 June after the summit of the presidents of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. According to Karimov, a lot of decisions have been taken in the five years since the union was founded, but there are very few results. Karimov said: �We cannot boast of anything.�

Karimov also said he agrees with President Nursultan Nazarbaev of Kazakhstan that world financial crisis has had an impact on the Central Asian states. But, according to Karimov, the Central Asian Union was formed in 1994 especially to protect the Central Asian states from outside influences.

The "Vechernii Bishkek" daily writes in its 25 June edition that several containers with nuclear waste from the Russian Far East arrived in Kyrgyzstan recently. According to the paper, First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Silaev signed a special agreement with the Russian �Budget-M� company. The paper says that several thousand containers are expected to be buried in Kyrgyzstan and the price of the containers is $2,200 each.

The Deputy Chairman of the National Bank, Mariam Taranchieva, announced in Bishkek on 25 June that the Board of the National Bank decided the previous day to close the commercial KRAMDS Bank. According to Taranchieva, the bank's activity was suspended on 28 January 1999 due to its bankruptcy but its performance has not been improved since.

Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan, Emomali Rahmonov of Tajikistan and Askar Akayev of Kyrgyzstan took part in a summit of the Central Asian Union outside Bishkek on 24 June. It has been decided at the meeting: - To strengthen economic cooperation between the states of the region. - To make practical steps in forming a common economic zone in Central Asia. - The Council of the prime ministers of the member states should work out a strategy of economic development of the Central Asian Union. The council should amend the program of formation of the common economic zone. - To form the Economic Council of the Union with participation of vice prime ministers of the member states. - To extend the length of the rotating chairmanship of the union from one to two years. - To admit Turkey and Georgia into the Central Asian Union as observers.

The Union was formed by Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan in 1994. Tajikistan joined it last year. Russia joined the Union in 1997 as observer.

Parliamentary People's Assembly deputy Marat Kalmurzaev was arrested in Bishkek by the Interior Ministry late on 23 June. Deputy Interior Minister Kurmanbek Kubatbekov announced in Bishkek on 24 June that Kalmurzaev, president of the Kyrgyzbusiness private company, is accused of embezzlement, abuse of power and tax evasion in 1996-1998, resulting in losses to the state budget of 8,906,000 million som (about $200.000 according to the current rate)

According to Kubatbekov, the Interior Ministry tried to arrest Kalmurzayev 6 times before, but the parliament declined strip of his parliamentary immunity.

Speaker of the Assembly, Abdygany Erkebaev, announced on 24 June that Assembly Member Vladimir Shevelev is not attending the session and there is information that he is currently in Russia. Shevelev has also been accused of corruption. According to Kurmanbek Kubatbekov, Shevelev has inflicted damage of $800,000 on the state budget. Interior Ministry General Omurbek Kutuev announced in an interview broadcast by National TV late on 23 June that the cases of two other members of the People�s Assembly, Mamat Aibalayev and Usen Sydykov, are being investigated now. They are also accused of embezzlement.

Speaker Abdygany Erkebaev told journalists in Bishkek on 23 June that the arrests are a violation of Clause 56 of the Kyrgyz constitution. The clause is about the status and authority of a member of parliament as well as on the parliamentary immunity. Chairman of the parliamentary committee on legal affairs Absamat MasAliyev told the session on 23 June that the committee had appealed to the Prosecutor General Office to release the arrested deputies. According to the committee, firstly, guilt of the deputies has not been proved yet. Secondly, only the Central Election Commission has the right to strip of parliamentary immunity and the commission has not taken any decision on any deputy yet.

Prosecutor General Asanbek SharshenAliyev was invited to the parliamentary session on 23 June but failed to attend. Erkebaev told the session that SharshenAliyev is preparing his answers to questions by parliamentarians and has promised to come in the nearest future.

Aleksei Yermolov, spokesman for the Ministry of Emergencies, announced on 24 June that Minister Sultan Urmanaev met in Bishkek earlier that day with a delegation of the Asian Development Bank. The possibility of receiving $650,000 in technical assistance from the ADB in 1999 for rehabilitation of nuclear waste sites in Kyrgfyzstan was discussed. According to Yermolov, the ADB could give Kyrgyzstan about $15 million in 2000 for that purpose.

The Central Election Commission announced in Bishkek on 24 June that the next local elections will be held in Kyrgyzstan in October. The commission did not discuss the parliamentary immunity of the arrested parliament deputies.

The next parliamentary elections are set for February 2000, and the next presidential elections should be held in December 2000.

The governmental press service announced in Bishkek on 24 June that Prime Minister Amangeldi MurAliyev has signed a special decree forming a government information department and naming as its head Farid Niyazov, former director general of the Akyl state publishing house. The governmental press service has been subordinated to the new department.

The second part of the 16th session of the parliamentary People�s Assembly began in Bishkek on the afternoon of 23 June, after a one and a half day delay caused by the arrest during the night from 20 to 21 June of Assembly member Jalgap Kazakbaev just before the scheduled beginning of the session. Another member of the Assembly, Boris Vorobyov, was arrested by security officials in Bishkek on 2 June and is in detention now. Both men are accused of embezzlement, corruption, tax evasion, smuggling. Vorobyov is the owner of a private firm, producing alcohol. Kazakbaev is the director general of the Kara-Balta state mining complex, which is engaged in refining gold and uranium.

The Assembly approved the agenda for the session on 23 June and put the question on arrests of Vorobyov and Kazakbaev in first place.

The Assembly is to consider at its short-term session the amendments to the law on state budget for 1999, proposed by the government. Also, it is planning to consider the current social and economical situation in the country, which is getting worse. The som, Kyrgyz currency, has lost 50 percent of its value in the last two months. Bread prices have increased by 30 percent in the last month. The average monthly salary is about 700 som (about $16), while the minimal subsistence level is about 1,000 soms per month.

Yuri Maksimov, lawyer for the "Res Publica" opposition weekly, told our correspondent in Bishkek on 23 June that the Supreme Court of Kyrgyzstan will consider the paper's appeal on 8 July.

The Pervomai district court of Bishkek found "Res Publica" guilty on 30 March in the case versus Amanbek Karypkulov, President of the National Radio and TV Corporation. On 29 January, Karypkulov sued "Res Publica" and a group of authors who published an open letter to the president, the prime minister, speakers of the two parliamentary houses and the prosecutor general. The letter, entitled 'Honest People Must Be At The Head Of The State TV', was published in "Res Publica" on 12 January.

The letter was signed by 20 employees of the National Radio and TV Corporation. They wrote that Karypkulov�s policy is anti-popular and anti-constitutional, and that Karypkulov had been one of those who repressed press freedom when he was ideological secretary of the Central Committee of the Kyrgyz Communist Party, and now continues to do so.

On 30 March, the court sentenced "Res Publica" to pay 200,000-som compensation (about $6,670 at that time) to Karypkulov. The paper had appealed to the city court and the Bishkek city court approved the decision in April.

A session of the parliamentary People�s Assembly, scheduled to begin on 22 June was postponed until the next day. According to the parliamentary press service, the postponement is due to the arrest of Assembly member Jalgap Kazakbaevduring the night of 20-21 June. The Assembly held a special closed meeting on the case instead of a session on 22 June. According to its press service, the Assembly has asked the parliamentary committee on legality to investigate the case by 23 June.

Jalgap Kazakbaev, director general of the Kara-Balta mining complex, was arrested by security officials in Bishkek. Deputy Minister of National Security Kubat KojonAliyev announced in Bishkek on 22 June that a criminal case against Kazakbaev was opened on 28 May after a special governmental commission had found a big embezzlement at the complex. The complex is engaged in refining gold and uranium. According to Kojonaliev, Kazakbaev sold uranium on the international market below market prices, using the difference in his own interest. KozhonAliyev added that Kazakbaev has sent $500,000 to some Swiss banks, about $70,000 to some US banks and $96,000 to Cypriot banks recently.

About 200 employees of the Kara-Balta complex held a picket in front of the government building in Bishkek on 22 June demanding Kazakbaev's release. The Deputy Director General of the complex, Mr.Trenin, told our correspondent in Bishkek during the picket that the issue could be resolved without arrests. According to him, the chief accountant of the complex has also been arrested.

Another member of the parliamentary People�s Assembly, Boris Vorobyev, was arrested in Kyrgyzstan on 2 June. He is accused of smuggling, embezzlement and tax evasion. Vorobyev is the owner of an alcohol company. Prosecutor General Asanbek SharshenAliyev announced in Bishkek on 22 June that Vorobyev has evaded 427,000-som customs payments and 8-million-som taxes but has already repaid 35 million soms since 2 June, when he was arrested. Vorobyev is still in detention in Bishkek.

Baktygul Jeenbaeva, executive director of the Kyrgyz agricultural corporation, announced in Bishkek on 22 June that the World Bank�s directors council will consider giving the corporation a $15 million loan on 24 June. The money will be used to finance Kyrgyz farmers. According to Jeenbaeva, the corporation gave farmers 142-million-som (about $6 million) loans in 1998 and plans to increase the total amount to 220 million soms this year.

Gasoline prices have increased by 15-20 percent in Bishkek in the last two days. The National Statistical Board announced in Bishkek on 22 June that inflation in the country increased in May by 7.9 percent compared with April. Inflation in five months of 1999 reached 22.6 percent. Food prices increased in May by 11.9 percent, and bread prices by 28.1 percent compared with April.

The drug center in Bishkek announced on 22 June that there are currently 6,000 registered drug addicts in Kyrgyzstan. According to local experts, the real figure is about 50,000 - 60,000.

Felix Kulov, the popular Kyrgyz politician, disseminated his appeal to all Kyrgyz citizens in local media on 21 June. He says he will found a new political party, the Ar-Namys, soon and asks all people who trust him to join that party. According to Kulov, the founding conference of the party will be held in Bishkek in a month's time and Ar-Namys will take part in local, parliamentary and presidential elections, set for February and December 2000.

According to the Election Code passed in parliament and signed into effect by President Askar Akayev earlier this year, only political parties registered with the Ministry of Justice not later than a year before the date of elections have the right to take part in the elections.

Kulov resigned from the post of Bishkek mayor last April, accusing President Akayev of undemocratic rule. He had previously served as interior minister, vice president of Kyrgyzstan, governor of the Chu region, and minister of national security.

The presidential press service announced in Bishkek on 21 June that President Askar Akayev has appealed to both parliamentary houses to amend the Clause 92 of the newly adopted Election Code. According to the press service, Akayev wants to change the minimum time from registration of a political party until the first elections in which this party may participate from one year to six months.

The presidential press service announced in Bishkek on 21 June that President Askar Akayev has signed a special decree reducing the number of members of the Supreme Court of Kyrgyzstan from 21 to 17. The new number includes a chairman of the Supreme Court and all his deputies.

The presidential press service announced in Bishkek on 20 June that a Kyrgyz delegation led by President Askar Akayev will visit Turkey in the first week on July. Akayev and President Suleiman Demiral of Turkey will discuss strategic points of political and economic cooperation between the two states. Also, restructuring of Kyrgyzstan's $75 million debt to Turkey will be discussed. The visit will last for two days.

An international conference on the development of the Ferghana valley, shared by Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, began in the resort town of Cholpon-Ata, Kyrgyzstan, on 19 June. Prime Minister Amangeldi MurAliyev and State Secretary Ishenbai Abduarazakov are taking part. The conference is organized by the UN Development Program. .

President Askar Akayev delivered a speech at the Tano Korean festival held in Bishkek on 19 June. The festival marked the end spring agricultural work and beginning of the harvest, and was held on a central square in the city. There are about 20,000 ethnic Koreans in Kyrgyzstan.