Saturday 1 January 2005
December 30, 2004
Kazakhstan: Soros Foundation Says Tax Evasion Case Is Politically Motivated
Authorities in Kazakhstan have launched a criminal case against the Soros-Kazakhstan Foundation, a U.S. humanitarian organization, for tax evasion. Kazakh officials said the foundation faces possible fines or a suspension of its activities in the country. The foundation maintains it has been operating in full compliance with Kazakh law. The foundation itself, as well as independent experts, believe the action is purely political.
December 21, 2004
Russia: Freedom House Downgrades Country To 'Not Free' Status
A U.S.-based organization that tracks the progress of political rights and civil liberties across the world says Russia has fallen to the status of "not free." Freedom House points to a growing trend under President Vladimir Putin to "concentrate political authorities, harass and intimidate the media, and politicize the country's law-enforcement system." Elsewhere, Belarus, Armenia, and Romania also saw setbacks, while the organization found encouraging democratic gains in Georgia and Ukraine. Turkmenistan rated among the most repressive countries.
December 15, 2004
Central Asia: New Report Says Banking Woes Hurting Some Central Asian Economies
A new report by the international credit rating agency Standard & Poor's sheds an unflattering light on the banking systems of Central Asia. The report says Kazakhstan has the region's most advanced banking system and accounts for 5 percent of banking assets in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). But the report says the rest of Central Asia lags far behind due to the failure of governments to enact economic and regulatory reforms.
December 14, 2004
Kazakhstan: Wind-Energy Project To Harness Steppes' Potential
Kazakhstan's sunny skies and flat, wind-swept steppes make the country a promising land for solar and wind-based energy. In order to develop its solar potential, Kazakhstan last year launched its first solar energy project, in the southeastern Almaty region. Some 1,500 residents stand to benefit from the solar program, which was initially funded by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Canadian International Development Agency. Recently, the vast Central Asian republic launched its first large-scale project aimed at developing wind-based energy.
December 10, 2004
Central Asia: Trend Is Away From Capital Punishment
The Grand Duchy of Tuscany is noted for being the first sovereign state to abolish the death penalty, in 1786. Today, more than 130 countries have stopped executing prisoners in practice, and of those, around 80 have abolished capital punishment completely. Even in Central Asia, a region not known for its attention to human rights, the death penalty has been on the decline. As the world marks Human Rights Day today, RFE/RL looks at progress being made to rid Central Asia of what Amnesty International calls the "ultimate, irreversible denial of human rights."
December 09, 2004
Kazakhstan: Opposition, Observers Criticize President's 'Reforms'
President Nursultan Nazarbaev has officially declared the beginning of a new stage of democratic reform in Kazakhstan. This week, he signed two decrees on elections. According to the decrees, "akims" or governors of villages and districts will be elected instead of being appointed by the president. Opposition members and independent experts say Nazarbaev's step is nothing but an attempt to weaken the opposition and improve his image ahead of hearings on the "Kazakhgate" bribery case, expected to resume in January in New York.
December 03, 2004
Germany: Emigrants From Ex-Soviet States Struggle To Adapt (Part One)
A large majority of Germany's 2.5 million repatriates or "Aussiedler" -- immigrants granted citizenship on the basis of their German ancestry -- come from the Soviet Union's successor states, mostly Russia and Kazakhstan. They are ethnic Germans from the Volga region and Crimea, deported by Josef Stalin in 1942 under gruesome conditions to Central Asia and Siberia. Fewer are arriving each year -- with 70,000 new repatriates in 2003 compared to a record 397,000 in 1993. But German authorities argue that despite decreasing numbers, their integration is becoming more difficult, because most of the latest arrivals speak no German. Now, Germany is introducing tougher rules in 2005 to limit entry to people who actually master the language. In the first of a two-part series about the challenges faced by repatriates in Germany, RFE/RL correspondent Sophie Lambroschini reports on how Russians and Kazakhs are adjusting to life in Wittstock, a small town in former East Germany.
November 30, 2004
Central Asia: Attitudes, Abuse Contribute To Spread Of AIDS (Part 3)
People around the world with HIV/AIDS are often treated as social outcasts, deprived of human dignity as they battle not only the disease, but also religious, social, and cultural stigma. In Central Asia, however, the challenges are often even tougher for those with HIV/AIDS. In some countries, prejudice is actually contributing to the spread of the disease. And reports of abuse are widespread. For example, prisoners in Uzbekistan have reportedly been threatened with injections of the HIV virus for misbehavior. In the third of a four-part series on AIDS in Central Asia, RFE/RL looks at the attitudes of government and religious officials, as well as society in general, to the disease.
November 30, 2004
Central Asia: A Silent Killer Threatens The Region (Part 1)
Over the past two years, HIV/AIDS infections have increased by 40 percent in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. According to a new United Nations report released in conjunction with World AIDS Day on 1 December, around 1.4 million people in that region live with AIDS or the virus that causes it. Worst affected are Russia, Ukraine, and the Baltic states. But in the first of a four-part series on AIDS in Central Asia, RFE/RL examines the early stages of what could become a regional HIV/AIDS epidemic.