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Kyrgyz Officials Fired, Reprimanded Over Customs Rules 'Failure'

Kyrgyz Prime Minister Sapar Isakov
Kyrgyz Prime Minister Sapar Isakov

BISHKEK -- Prime Minister Sapar Isakov has sacked Kyrgyzstan's envoy to the Eurasian Economic Union (EES), Sanjar Umotaliev, and reprimanded several top officials.

In an order issued on January 8, Isakov also removed Umotaliev as deputy chief of staff to the Kyrgyz cabinet "due to [his] failure to properly outline the draft law on ratification of the EES's Customs Code Treaty," the government's website says.

Citing the same reason, Isakov also reprimanded Economy Minister Artyom Novikov, Deputy Economy Minister Bakkeldi Tyumenbaev, State Customs Service chief Kubanychbek Kulmatov, and Kulmatov's deputy Zamirbek Niyazaliev.

In addition, several cabinet staff members were dismissed.

Members of the EES, which is dominated by Russia and Kazakhstan and also includes Armenia, Belarus, and Kyrgyzstan, signed a treaty on the economic grouping’s Customs Code in April 2017.

The dismissals and reprimands follow a bitter standoff between Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan over long lines of vehicles and people seeking to cross the border formed in September.

Kazakhstan blamed the bottleneck on Kyrgyzstan, saying that crossings by trucks carrying cargo were slowed by Bishkek's failure to bring its customs infrastructure up to EES standards.

However, there was widespread speculation that Kazakhstan restricted movement across the border in response to public comments in which Kyrgyzstan's president at the time, Almazbek Atambaev, criticized Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev and accused Kazakhstan of interfering in Kyrgyzstan's October 15 presidential election.

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