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Fugitive Kazakh Banker Blames Nazarbaev’s Relative For Strike

Workers on strike gather in Zhanaozen to demand higher wages.
Workers on strike gather in Zhanaozen to demand higher wages.
ZHANAOZEN, Kazakhstan -- A former Kazakh banker has accused President Nursultan Nazarbaev's son-in-law of prompting a strike by several thousand workers at an oil facility in southwestern Kazakhstan, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

Mukhtar Ablyazov, the exiled former top manager of the BTA Bank, said on March 11 in an address to the strikers that the owner of the facility, Ozenmunaygaz, is controlled by Timur Kulibaev, Nazarbaev's son-in-law, through its parent company.

Thousands of workers went on strike on March 4 at the OzenMunaiGaz facility in the town of Zhanaozen.

In his statement on the "Respublika" website, Ablyazov said OzenMunaiGaz is "lying" when it says it does not have enough money to give the striking workers a wage increase. He accused Kulibaev of embezzling funds from KazMunaiGaz -- the parent company of OzenMunaiGaz -- and called on Kazakh political parties and citizens to support the strikers.

Kulibaev is the chairman of the board of KazMunaiGaz.

Striking worker Tabyn Ergenov told RFE/RL that no political party or nongovernmental organization has commented on the mass strike.

Ergenov added that the strikers' main demand is for OzenMunaiGaz's management to be sacked for violating "the constitutional rights of workers."

Daulet Zhumadil, a KazMunaiGaz manager, told RFE/RL that 115 striking workers went back to work following a Zhanaozen court order on March 10 that the strike was illegal and workers should return to their jobs.

Kulibaev has been mentioned as a possible successor to Nazarbaev. He is deputy chairman of Samruk-Kazyna, the state body that oversees all Kazakh energy producers, including oil, natural gas, and nuclear companies.

Ablyazov has lived in London since his BTA Bank was taken over by the Kazakh government last year. In recent weeks he has published on opposition websites various allegations about Kulibaev's involvement in corrupt business deals, including one in which the Chinese National Petroleum Corporation allegedly paid him tens of millions of dollars in bribes.