Category: Central Land of Kazakhstan

April 27, 2015

ASTANA, Kazakhstan (AP) — Preliminary results of weekend nationwide polls in Kazakhstan show the long-ruling president confirming his incumbency with 97.7 percent of the vote amid a record turnout, election officials said Monday.

A crushing victory for 74-year-old Nursultan Nazarbavev was widely expected from the moment Sunday’s snap elections were announced. Nazarbayev faced only two nominal rivals, and state media have for years nurtured an increasingly extravagant cult of personality devoted to him.

Authorities in the oil-rich Central Asian nation have said they hope the election will serve as a confirmation of legitimacy in uncertain times. Kazakhstan is facing a slowdown in economic growth amid falling oil prices and recession in neighboring Russia.

The Central Elections Commission said turnout was a record 95 percent. The high turnout came despite what international observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe described as a “hardly visible” campaign. Voter turnout is typically high in authoritarian states in Central Asia — the result of habit carried over from Soviet times and massive marshaling exercises by state officials.

Nazarbayev’s victory over his two nominal rivals, a trade union official and a communist politician, has been seen as all but a formality since the elections were announced. The communist candidate, Turgun Syzdykov, ran on a platform that included supporting Nazarbayev.

Speaking to supporters Sunday night, as local exit poll data showed him securing his election win, Nazarbayev hailed the scale of the turnout. “Without such mass public confidence, it would be difficult to work on completing the difficult tasks at hand,” he said. “The record turnout showed the unity of the people of Kazakhstan and their desire to live in a stable state.”

Earlier Sunday, Nazarbayev said he would after his re-election pursue creation of a constitutional reform commission to boost the economy and promote political development, greater transparency and openness. Kazakhstan currently has a dismal international reputation for corruption and political and media freedoms.

Authorities are looking with anxiety at the unrest that has gripped Ukraine. The political turmoil that led to the toppling of a Russia-friendly leader there in 2014 sent ripples of alarm throughout authoritarian regions of the former Soviet Union. Kazakhstan has watched with dismay the war that ensued there as ethnic Russians were goaded by Moscow into mounting an armed insurrection.

Kazakhstan has its own substantial Russian minority and worries about the potential for such a large ethnic group to pursue a separatist agenda similar to that seen in eastern Ukraine.

April 26, 2015

ALMATY, Kazakhstan (AP) — Voters in Kazakhstan turned out in abundance at polling stations Sunday for a presidential election guaranteed to overwhelmingly reconfirm the incumbent, who has ruled over the former Soviet republic for more than 25 years.

The election is taking place against the backdrop of a slump in economic growth and an air of anxiety over unrest in the nearby countries of Ukraine and Afghanistan. Nursultan Nazarbayev, 74, wrote in an opinion piece before the election that the vote would give the elected president a clear mandate to lead the country through potentially troubled times.

“The upcoming election will strengthen the stability of Kazakhstan. This remains the main condition for the sustainable development of our country and completing the large-scale tasks of modernizing our economy and society,” he wrote.

Nazarbayev’s victory over his two nominal rivals, a trade union official and a Communist politician, is all but a formality. Polling stations are scheduled to remain open until 8 p.m. local time (1400 GMT).

Out of the several dozen voters questioned outside a polling station at a school in the business capital, Almaty, only two declared their intent to vote for Nazarbayev’s rivals and the stability message appeared to have driven home.

“I am voting for Nazarbayev, because I need no changes in my life. I am happy with things as they are under the current authorities,” said Daniyar Yerzhanov, 43. “We businessmen don’t need the kind of democracy you get in Ukraine. We need stability and predictability.”

Riding high on the back of its oil, gas and mineral wealth, Kazakhstan has posted healthy growth figures over the past two decades, with the exception of a notable blip during the global economic crisis in 2008.

However, low oil prices and the recession in neighboring Russia, a large trading partner that has been hit with international sanctions for its role in the unrest in Ukraine, are dampening performance.

All international financial organizations see the country continuing its growth trajectory this year and the next, but at a far less impressive rate than previously. The political unrest that led to the toppling of a Russia-friendly leader in Ukraine in 2014 sent ripples of alarm throughout authoritarian regions of the former Soviet Union. Kazakhstan has watched with dismay the war that ensued there as ethnic Russians were goaded by Moscow into mounting an armed insurrection.

Kazakhstan has its own substantial Russian minority and worries about the potential for such a large ethnic group to pursue a separatist agenda similar to that seen in east Ukraine. Nazarbayev did little campaigning for the election, but he did dwell intensely on rehearsing well-worn refrains on social and ethnic harmony.

The weekend presidential election was preceded Thursday by a congress of the Assembly of Peoples of Kazakhstan, a talking shop devoted to cultivating national unity. At the event, Nazarbayev declared that the authorities would “robustly prevent any form of ethnic radicalism, regardless from where it arises.”

Nazarbayev will be almost 80 when the next presidential term comes to a close, and many worry whether his health will hold out. No clear succession plan is in place and with all semblance of political competition having been snuffed out by the authorities, uncertainty is strong.

One fear is that a successor to Nazarbayev could seek to cheaply bolster their mandate by striking a populist nationalist chord. Those worries appeared not to faze voters in Almaty, however. “There are no alternatives to him. And he is taking Kazakhstan along the right path,” said government employee Yelena Burlakova, 44. “His age is of no concern. As long as he is breathing, we will vote for him.”

With no real alternative candidates on offer, anybody opposing Nazarbayev is left only with the option of not voting at all. “A campaign of brainwashing has taken place over the past quarter century and no alternative can and will be offered,” said artist Arman Bektasov, 30. “The people of Kazakhstan have only one choice. What is the point of voting if the outcome has already been decided?”

April 24, 2015

ALMATY, Kazakhstan (AP) — As oil-rich Kazakhstan votes for a president Sunday, the governing elite is pounding home a mantra of stability as fears percolate about the country’s massive Russian minority taking inspiration from the Moscow-backed insurgency in Ukraine.

With authorities clamping down on all opposition, Nursultan Nazarbayev’s re-election is a done deal. The former Communist party boss’ two rivals — a trade union leader and a Communist politician— have negligible public profiles and are standing only to create the illusion of competition.

Instead of electioneering in the traditional sense, the 74-year-old Nazarbayev’s team is rehearsing well-worn refrains on social and ethnic harmony. Kazakhstan’s vast diversity of peoples — from Uzbeks to Koreans and Chechens to Tatars — is a source of both pride and anxiety.

Russians are by far the largest minority, accounting for almost one-fourth of the 16 million people spread across a land four times the size of Texas. Recently, niggling anxieties about the potential for such a large ethnic group to pursue a separatist agenda have been rekindled by unrest in Ukraine, where ethnic Russians have been goaded by Moscow into mounting an armed insurrection.

Those concerns were only deepened in August, when Russian President Vladimir Putin paid a back-handed compliment to Nazarbayev, who took charge in Kazakhstan in the late 1980s. “He has done a unique thing. He created a state where no state ever existed. The Kazakhs never had a state,” Putin told a gathering of pro-Kremlin youth activists.

Ukrainians have become accustomed to hearing Russian chauvinists declaring their country a recent invention. So Kazakhs felt a chill when they heard Putin make similar remarks about their own country.

Nazarbayev acted swiftly in the post-independence years of the early 1990s to sideline the grassroots Slavic groups, who militated for language rights and autonomy for Russians living in northern regions.

Moscow currently enjoys warm diplomatic and economic ties with Kazakhstan, as did Ukraine before the president there was toppled in a pro-Western uprising. A sudden change in Kazakhstan’s trajectory could, some fear, re-ignite calls for autonomy. That’s one reason why Nazarbayev is at pains to stress national harmony and close ties with the Kremlin.

Nazarbayev has also been disciplined in keeping Kazakh nationalists on a short leash. Tight control over the media has ensured that news of occasional clashes, such as those that occurred earlier this year between Kazakhs and ethnic Tajik communities in the southern village of Bostandyk, do not travel far.

The higher official status of the Kazakh language is promoted as gingerly as possible, to avoid causing offense. The language question is treated so cautiously, in fact, that it is rare for Russians to bother learning Kazakh at all, although authorities are trying to change that by pushing its use among the very young.

Also, all prospective candidates for the presidential election were made to take a Kazakh language test. Many failed. The weekend presidential election was preceded Thursday by a congress of the Assembly Peoples of Kazakhstan, a talking shop devoted to cultivating national unity. Before the event, Nazarbayev met with the deputy head of the assembly to discuss “Kazakhstan’s model for interethnic harmony,” the president’s office said.

It is widely accepted that as long as Nazarbayev is around, inter-ethnic tensions will likely be kept at bay. Speaking at Thursday’s congress, he declared that the authorities would “robustly prevent any form of ethnic radicalism, regardless from where it arises.”

But the fear is that Nazarbayev’s successors could seek to cheaply bolster their mandate by striking a populist nationalist chord. Nazarbayev has given no clues about heirs, however, leaving political observers to speculate idly about the future.

Leonard reported from Kiev, Ukraine.

Dubai, UAE (SPX)

Sep 15, 2014

A high level delegation from the Emirates Institution for Advanced Science and Technology (EIAST) visited recently the National Space Agency of Kazakhstan, Kazcosmos. The delegation, headed by H.E. Yousuf Al Shaibani, Director General of EIAST, also included Eng. Salem Al Marri, Assistant Director General for Scientific and Technical Affairs.

The UAE delegation met with their counter parts in the Kazcosmos and a number of representatives from space science and space industry institutions including Talgat Mussabayev, Chairman of Kazcosmos; Marat Nurguzhin, Acting President of JSC – National Company, Kazakhstan Garysh Sapary; Viktor Lefter, President of National Center for Space Communications; and Zhumabek Zhantayev, President of National center of space Communication and Technology in Kazakhstan.

The purpose of the visit was to enhance and strengthen cooperation between both parties in the field of remote sensing and establish mutual benefits through laboratories and satellite manufacturing cooperation, including image use of both DubaiSat-2 and Kazakhstan satellites, in order to accomplish their common development goals.

This visit comes following an official Kazakhstan delegation that came to EIAST recently during which parties discussed opportunities of cooperation between them in the field of exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes.

During that visit, the Kazakhstani delegation discovered the latest achievements realized by EIAST with the launch of Dubai Sat-1 and Dubai Sat-2; in addition to current and future projects, including the building of KhalifaSat which will be developed in the UAE by Emiratis.

Following the discussions, Al Shaibani confirmed that the UAE has reached an advanced position in the field of space sciences and intends to build on these achievements by keeping up with the latest space science research and by exchanging technical and scientific skills with leading local, regional and global institutions in the field.

He further stated that “EIAST seeks to keep up with the rapid growth of advanced technology and space industry to meet the needs of the UAE. The statement follows the recent announcement of the establishment of the Emirates Space Agency by, which will officially signal the start of exploration in outer space. This will be the first Arab probe to Mars with a team of Emiratis in the coming seven years.”

“We value the achievements made by Kazakhstan, as it is one of the advanced countries in the field of space science. It has modern satellites and extensive experience in space science and we look forward to having a solid cooperation with Kazcosmos and to activating the strategic partnership. Likewise; the Kazcosmos team admired the achievements of the UAE and the advanced level of the country in terms of space activities and ambitious future plans”, he added.

During the visit, Al Shaibani and al Marri visited the headquarters of Kazcosmos, Kazakhstan Garysh Sapary, the National Center for Space Communications and the National center of space Communication and Technology. They were also briefed about the main projects, achievements and future plans of each entity.

In December 2011, EIAST signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Kazcosmos, aimed at enhancing a better exchange of scientific skills and the development of human resources in the fields of space science, remote sensing, space communications, and global satellite navigation systems.

By virtue of this MoU, both parties will cooperate to use the infrastructure needed for space researches and all other activities related to the manufacture and launch of satellites.

EIAST was established by the Dubai Government in 2006 with the goal of promoting a culture of advanced scientific research and technology innovation in Dubai and the UAE, and enhancing technology innovation and scientific skills among UAE Nationals.

It is mainly involved in outer space research and development, satellite manufacturing and systems development, space imaging, and ground station services and support for other satellites.

Source: Space Mart.


Cairo (XNA)

Apr 15, 2014

Egypt will launch a new satellite from Kazakhstan on Wednesday, official news agency MENA reported on Monday.

“Egypt will launch a new satellite, named ‘Egyptsat,’ from Baikonur Cosmodrome, located in the desert steppe of Kazakhstan to enhance modern scientific research,” Egyptian cabinet spokesperson Houssam Qawish was quoted as saying.

The satellite will also contribute to development in such fields as agriculture and oil and gas exploration, and pave the way for the formation of an Egyptian space agency, Qawish said.

The new satellite costs 300 million Egyptian pounds (nearly 43 million U.S. dollars).

Egypt currently owns two communication satellites, Nilesat 1 and Nilesat 2, which provide broadcasting services for the country.

Source: Space-Travel.


August 01, 2013

PARIS (AP) — He was a favorite of Kazakhstan’s longtime leader as the energy-rich nation emerged from decades of Soviet rule, but he turned against his mentor and used his vast wealth to bankroll a nascent opposition. He was granted asylum in Britain, then became a fugitive from the government that had promised to protect him.

Wanted by Britain, Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine, Mukhtar Ablyazov carried a diplomatic passport from the Central African Republic when he was arrested on suspicion of embezzlement at a rented villa in the south of France.

French police special forces had asked for backup from aircraft and armored vehicles, fearing a rumored private militia. There was none. Dressed in shorts and a t-shirt, the former banker who became one of Kazakhstan’s most prominent dissidents went quietly.

Ablyazov, a former Kazakh energy minister and head of the pre-nationalized BTA Bank, was transferred to a temporary holding facility Thursday after appearing before judicial authorities in southeast France.

Ablyazov is wanted by Kazakhstan authorities on charges of siphoning off at least $5 billion from Kazakhstan’s BTA Bank. In Russia, he’s being sought in connection with embezzlement charges involving BTA and a Russian company. Ukraine is seeking Ablyazov on charges linked to alleged embezzlement of funds from a local BTA branch.

He and many in the Kazakh opposition community say the charges are clearly politically motivated. Kazakh prosecutors have described Ablyazov as the head of an extremist, criminal conspiracy bent on “seizing power by inciting civil strife and hatred.” The prosecutor in Astana, the Kazakh capital, said Interpol had informed the government of the arrest, which was carried out at the request of Ukraine.

He was wanted under an Interpol red notice — the equivalent of an international arrest warrant — on allegations of “fraud in a large scale infliction of damage on property by deceit or breach of trust, money laundering, abuse of authority, document forgery,” the international police body’s website says.

The arrest comes after Italy’s shaky coalition government came under fire but survived a no-confidence vote over its handling of the deportation of his wife and daughter from their Rome home to Kazakhstan in May — under pressure from Kazakh diplomats.

In a statement on their father’s website, Ablyazov’s son and older daughter said they feared what would happen if their father were deported to Kazakhstan. “We beg the French authorities not to grant Kazakhstan our father. He is a man of honor who has been fighting all his life and sacrificed so much for freedom and democracy in Kazakhstan,” wrote Madina and Madiyar Ablyazov. “We are afraid for his life.”

After the Soviet collapse, Ablyazov became a close ally of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev before gradually emerging as a prominent opponent. The flurry of action in Ablyazov’s case is testament to his continued influence in the opposition and the government’s unease as Nazarbayev ages, said Yevgeniy A. Zhovtis, chairman of the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law.

Ablyazov, he said, was once one of the country’s wealthiest and best-connected businessmen in the wild days after the fall of Communism. Like some Russian oligarchs, he grew disillusioned with what he saw as an autocratic rule and used his money — riches the government says were obtained illegally — to try to jumpstart democracy.

He landed in prison in 2002 and spent a year there until promising to stay out of politics in exchange for a pardon from Nazarbayev. Instead, his influence in the opposition grew and he eventually fled to London, where Kazakh acolytes traveled to seek his guidance, Zhovtis said.

He had dropped out of sight just before he was sentenced in Britain in February last year for contempt of court during a financial fraud trial related to BTA. Solange Legras, chief state prosecutor for international cases at an appeals court in the southeastern French town of Aix-en-Provence, held a hearing with Ablyazov on Thursday. She told The Associated Press that special police forces, backed by an airplane and armored vehicles, swept into a rental home in the town of Mouans Sartoux on Wednesday to detain him.

The police used “powerful means” because Ablyazov was known to have a “private militia” at his disposal, said Legras. No shots were fired or any physical damage caused in the operation. She said Ablyazov has been sought through Interpol since 2009, and was likely to remain in French custody for weeks — at the very least.

Picked up “in shorts and a T-shirt, “Ablyazov had in his possession a diplomatic passport from Central African Republic that was “probably false,” Legras said. Police were only authorized to detain him, not search the site.

Ablyazov’s lawyer countered that the diplomatic passport was valid and said his client clearly had no militia at his disposal. The lawyer, Bruno Rebstock, said Kazakhstan’s authoritarian government was behind the international effort to track him down.

“It’s becoming a real political and personal vengeance against the family and against their supporters,” Rebstock said. “If he weren’t a significant member of the opposition he wouldn’t be pursued so diligently.”

During their hearing, which lasted no more than a half-hour and took place with three lawyers present, Ablyazov insisted he had political refugee status in Britain and said he was the victim of a smear campaign, Legras said. She said her role was to explain the possible extradition process, not delve into the case. Afterward, Ablyazov was taken to a detention center in the neighboring town of Luynes.

Rebstock said he would appeal the detention: Ablyazov is “combative, forthcoming and prepared to defend himself against the charges.” Zhovtis said he did not believe the French would send him to Ukraine or Kazakhstan, saying western European governments rightly lack confidence that either country will give him a free trial. Both are known to prosecute members of the political opposition, and the European Court on Human Rights has come down strongly against Ukraine for its treatment of a former prime minister jailed on similar charges.

Legras, the prosecutor, said French judicial authorities only know of extradition requests from Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine. For now, Legras said she was focusing on the extradition request from Ukraine because France has no bilateral extradition accord with Kazakhstan.

Under the extradition process, the requesting country has 40 days to send its legal dossier to French authorities. Once that is received, French prosecutors will have five days to present Ablyazov to investigating magistrates. As a result, Legras said she expected that Ablyazov would remain in French custody at least through the end of August.

Vladimir Isachenkov contributed to this report from Moscow.