Wednesday, 16 November 2011

16 November 2011 News Digest

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By Alima Bissenova (11/16/2011 issue of the CACI Analyst)

Kazakhstan to export 2.5 mln tones of grain through Black, Baltic Seas this year 3 November Kazakhstan may export 2.5 million tonnes of grain through the Black and the Baltic Seas this marketing year (July 2011-June 2012), the country's Agriculture Minister Asylzhan Mamytbekov said.

Kazakhstan to export 2.5 mln tones of grain through Black, Baltic Seas this year 3 November Kazakhstan may export 2.5 million tonnes of grain through the Black and the Baltic Seas this marketing year (July 2011-June 2012), the country's Agriculture Minister Asylzhan Mamytbekov said. "Today we are working closely with the national railway company Kazakhstan Temir Zholy. In October we shipped 1.2 million tonnes of grain, of which 600,000 tonnes were exported. We plan to raise the export volume to 800,000 tonnes in November and to 1 million tonnes in December. To meet the objectives, we are providing incentives to exports through the Black and the Baltic Seas. About 2.5 million tonnes of grain will be exported through those routes," Mamytbekov said at a plenary session of the parliament on Thursday.  "I believe we are bound for an exporting record," he said. Kazakh grain exports to China will be maintained at their previous level, he said. "Last year we exported around 50,000 tonnes of grain to China, and this year roughly at the same volume, maybe a little more," Mamytbekov said. Prodcorporation (the Kazakh operator of grain purchases in state reserve) has said that Kazakhstan plans to export around 3 million tonnes of grain to China in the 2011-2012 marketing year. Mamytbekov said Kazakhstan could export up to 15 million tonnes of grain this marketing year. Kazakhstan exported 5.9 million tonnes of grain last year. Kazakhstan has reaped a record grain harvest of 29.5 million tonnes in bunker weight this year. (Interfax)

Georgia expects Vershbow

7 November U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Alexander Vershbow will visit Georgia on November 10-12, Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Nino Kalandadze told a briefing on Monday.

Kalandadze did not specify the purpose of the U.S. diplomat's visit, recalling that Vershbow is also co-chairman of the U.S.-Georgia charter on strategic partnership.

"Consultations are systematically held within the framework of this charter," Kalandadze said.

A meeting of the NATO Security Council will be held in Georgia on November 9-10. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen plans to visit Batumi on September 10 to meet with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. Georgian experts do not rule out that Vershbow may join this meeting. (Interfax)

 

Nabucco awaits open season 7 November Nabucco can start its open-season process once shareholders get firm commitments from Azerbaijan, a consortium spokesman said from Vienna. Azerbaijan is weighing proposals for resources from its Shah Deniz 2 gas field from pipeline consortiums involved in the so-called Southern Corridor of transit networks. Christian Dolezal, a spokesman for the Nabucco consortium, told European news agency New Europe he was waiting for Baku to green light the project. "The Shah Deniz consortium received the proposal from us in time and we are waiting for their decision," he was quoted as saying. "After our shareholders have firm commitments from the Shah Deniz consortium we will, can start with the open-season process." The Nabucco pipeline, the most ambitious of the Southern Corridor projects, would carry an estimated 1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas per year. Last week, European Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger described Nabucco as "expensive" with a $10.9 billion price tag. He said the project was still needed to allay European energy concerns, however. Nabucco is up against the Interconnector Turkey-Greece and the Trans Adriatic Pipeline projects. Baku said it would deliver as much as 350 billion cubic feet of natural gas per year from its Shah Deniz 2 project in the Caspian Sea through whichever project it picks. (UPI)

 

Tests fail to confirm that Georgia handed over missing pilot's remains to Russia

7 November

The remains that Georgia handed over to Russia for genetic tests are not those of Lt. Col. Alexander Koventsov, who went missing during the five-day war in South Ossetia in August 2008, a high-placed diplomatic source in Moscow told Interfax-AVN on Monday.

"These are definitely not Koventsov's remains, and this has been confirmed in two tests conducted by Georgian experts under the supervision of the International Committee of the Red Cross," he said.

Genetic tests have been carried out twice at Russia's request, initially on seven and then on 15 parameters, he said.

The result was negative in both tests: the remains examined were not those of Koventsov," the source said. (Interfax-AVN)

 

Azerbaijani academic demoted after criticizing activist’s jailing 7 November A professor at Azerbaijan's Oil Academy has been demoted after criticizing the imprisonment of a youth activist who called for antigovernment protests via Facebook, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports. Baxtiyar Haciyev (aka Bakhtiyar Hajiyev), a Harvard graduate and former parliamentary candidate, was jailed in May for two years for evading military service in a case his supporters regard as retaliation for his use of social media to criticize the Azerbaijani authorities. Professor Rafiq Aliyev spoke out about Haciyev's case in comments to RFE/RL on November 1. He said he couldn't comprehend how Haciyev could have been found guilty and imprisoned under Azerbaijani law. He said those laws should be applied equally to all citizens. Within days, Aliyev, the author of some 70 books, was removed from his post as chair of robotized control systems for allegedly violating the Labor Code by "not carrying out his commitments in accordance with his employment contract." He remains at the academy. Forum of Intelligentsia of Azerbaijan (FIA) head Eldar Namazov told RFE/RL on November 5 that Aliyev's demotion was connected with his sociopolitical activity and was ordered by someone high up in the government."I'm sure the order to dismiss Rafiq Aliyev was not the Oil Academy rector's personal decision. Such a decision with regard to a world-famous scientist is a disgrace to the academy. Certain pressure was exerted on the academy leadership," Namazov said. Namazov said he believed a campaign was under way to pressure the Azerbaijani intelligentsia as a whole. Aliyev himself has declined to comment. The FIA convened a roundtable discussion on November 4 at which it called for dialogue between the authorities and the public in order to defuse rising tensions. Addressing that gathering, Aliyev expressed concern at the possibility of a civil confrontation, the Russian website reported. (RFE/RL)

 

Kazakh ground forces hold counter-insurgency drills in mountains

8 November

Kazakhstan Ground Forces commanders held a four-day operational and methodical exercise at the Koktal training site.

Kazakh Defense Minister Adilbek Dzhaksybekov watched company tactical drills, during which troops combed through the mountainous area, blocked and eliminated simulated insurgency groups, the Kazakh defense ministry said in a press release on Monday.

"During the exercise, particular focus was on the battle order, the firing system, competent use of the area, its engineering equipment, a combination of fire, strike and maneuver with steady retention of the occupied frontiers, as well as active tactical operations," the press release said.

"Kazakh army servicemen had a good practice of planning and applying forces. A battle in an urban and mountainous area has certain difficulties and requires the skill and performance of various techniques," the minister was quoted as saying in the press release.

Dzhaksybekov expressed his satisfaction with the outcome of the exercise, during which the personnel gained the necessary tactical experience.

Currently, the Ground Troops' tactical training aims at guaranteed provision of national security, new trends in the nature of armed struggle and troops' operating methods, the press release said. The main focus is on blocking and destroying illegal armed groups in populated areas, steppes and mountains. (Interfax-AVN)

 

Tajikistan's verdict for Russian pilot "a slap to state" – Kucherena

8 November

The Russian Public Chamber has said it is necessary to secure the release of Russian pilot Vladimir Sadovnichy, who was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison in Tajikistan.

"It is simply terrible that such a harsh verdict has been issued. It can be regarded as a slap to our state," head of the Public Chamber commission for monitoring law enforcement and judiciary activities Anatoly Kucherena told Interfax on Tuesday.

A public committee in support of S Sadovnichy will be set up in the near future, he said. "I think it is a matter of honor for the Russian state, and human rights activists to stand up for our countryman who found himself in a predicament and to secure his release. For our part, we will set up a public committee in his defense," Kucherena said. (Interfax)

 

Russia to help finance Asian power line

9 November

Russia is willing to help finance an ambitious Central Asian regional electricity transmission project, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said.

Putin told a gathering of prime ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization countries Monday in St. Petersburg, Russia, that his country is prepared to invest $500 million in the "CASA-1000" project. The project, which has received backing from the World Bank, envisions building a 1,000-megawatt transmission line from hydropower generators in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to Afghanistan and Pakistan, which are seeking more reliable and cheaper sources of electricity. But it has been delayed pending the completion of the Rogun hydropower project on the Vakhsh River in Tajikistan, which is opposed by neighboring Uzbekistan on environmental grounds. "Russia is willing to commit at least $500 million into this project," Putin said. "We could implement this project in a fairly short time and we propose intensifying work in this direction." The Central Asia-South Asia Electricity Trade and Transmission Project, or CASA-1000, would providing electric power to Pakistan and Afghanistan, mainly during the summer periods. The initial agreements call for Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to supply an equal amount of electricity to Pakistan, which will receive 70-75 percent of the flow, and to Afghanistan, which will receive 20-25 percent, analysts from the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute say.

At about 1,000 miles it would be the biggest regional power supply project in Eurasia. Nearly 90 percent of its estimated $2 billion cost is to be funded by international finance organizations such as the World Bank and the Islamic Development Bank, with the remaining 10 percent provided by private investors.

Putin's offer of financial help this week came in the context of expanding the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which consists of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, to include Pakistan as a full member. (UPI)

 

Kazakhstan blames terrorists for bombings 10 November Two explosions last week in Atyrau, Kazakhstan, were the work of an Islamist terrorist group, Kazakh authorities said. The Moscow Times reported Kazakhstan's Prosecutor General's Office blamed the terrorist group Jund al-Khilafah, or Soldiers of the Caliphate. The alleged bomber was the sole casualty. Kazakh authorities said the Islamist insurgency had spread to the republic from North Caucasus. The terror group said in a statement on Islamist Web sites after the Oct. 31 explosions they were retaliation for a legislative crackdown on religion. Legislation adopted last month bans prayer rooms in state buildings and requires missionaries to obtain state registration and renew it annually. President Nursultan Nazarbayev introduced the legislation, which he called an anti-extremism measure. Before Wednesday, the Times said, Kazakh authorities had denied the existence of Soldiers of the Caliphate. Authorities said three members of the group arrested last week said the failed attacks were not intended to be suicide bombings, but the victim died because he mishandled an explosive device. Atyrau is home to offices of numerous oil companies, including ENI, Tengizchevroil and Exxon Mobil. (UPI)

5 dead after violence in Kazakhstan 12 November Police are pursuing a suspect in Kazakhstan who allegedly killed five people, including three police officers, Saturday morning. Police were pursuing a suspect they believed robbed a hunting store early Saturday in Taraz, RIA Novosti reported. The five were killed in a subsequent explosion and shooting by the suspect, police said. "Two officers received fatal gunshot wounds ... and the third was killed when the wounded suspect set off what is believed to have been an improvised explosive device after being detained," a police statement said. Earlier reports said three people had died. (UPI)

Kyrgyzstan in talks on ‘Manas’ transit center 14 November Negotiations on the U.S. Transit Center at "Manas" are underway with the Kyrgyz leadership, CA-News quotes the U.S. Ambassador to Bishkek Pamela Spratlen as saying. "The issue is under discussion. Negotiations are underway with the Kyrgyz side on its stay," Spratlen said at the opening of the Global Entrepreneurship Week in Bishkek on Nov.14. Earlier, Prime Minister Atambayev has repeatedly stated that the current military Transit Center of the U.S. at the "Manas" Airport should be civil. He also reminded that the agreement between Kyrgyzstan and the U.S. on this Center expires in 2014. An agreement on deploying the U.S. military base in the country's territory is in effect until 2014. A U.S. Air Force base was deployed at the International Airport Manas in the capital of Kyrgyzstan in 2001 within the Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.  Later, it was renamed the Transit Center (TC), which is the key point of transportation of the U.S. military equipment and servicemen toward the places of war actions in Afghanistan. (CA-News)

Uzbekistan demands investigate Tajik border incident 14 November The State Frontier Safeguard Committee of the National Security Service (NSS) of Uzbekistan announces its decisive protest in connection with the fact of shooting at the Uzbek-Tajik border on Sunday night, and urges to carry out comprehensive investigation of the incident, NSS Press Service told Trend on Monday. Uzbek frontier guards on Sunday at 21.20 prevented another attempt of importing a large portion of drugs onto the  territory of Uzbekistan through a section of the Uzbek-Tajik border near to town Bekabad of the Tashkent district, the Press Service said.  Uzbek frontier troops servicemen were "shot by the so-called Tajik "frontier guards" who really assisted the criminals" when they tried to seize a group of smugglers.  As a result of attack by gangsters, a military serviceman of Uzbek NSS frontier troops was shot to death. A large portion of heroin - more than 3.8 kilograms - was found at the place of the incident.  This is a second case of clashes between Uzbek NSS frontier guards and Tajik drugs smugglers lately, the Press Service reported. One infringer was wounded and another one was killed when they tried to resist Uzbek frontier guards in June attempt of smuggling 22.98 kilograms of raw opium toward Samarkand. A serviceman of Uzbek NSS frontier troops was injured at the then incident. It is identified that the infringers were also backed by Tajik frontier guards. (Trend)

Indian Army chief to visit Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan 15 November Looking to further India's military relations, Army chief General Vijay Kumar Singh will go on a six-day visit to Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan beginning Wednesday, an army officer said Tuesday. This will be the first-ever visit by an Indian Army chief to Uzbekistan since its independence in 1991 and to Kazakhstan in 16 years, an officer at the army headquarters here said. Singh will be in Tashkent from Nov 16 to 19 when he will meet up with his Uzbek counterpart and other top military and government leaders. From there, he will fly to Astana to hold similar bilateral talks with the Kazakh military and government top brass. The visit has been envisaged as an Indian effort to have greater engagement with the Central Asian nations, considered as New Delhi's extended neighbourhood. The last Indian Army chief to visit Kazakhstan was General Shankar Roy Choudhury in the mid-1990s. (IANS)

Kazakhstan President Nazarbayev calls snap election 16 November Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev has dissolved parliament and called a snap election for mid-January. The move, which was widely expected after he won April's presidential poll, will dilute the governing party's monopoly.  Mr Nazarbayev's Nur Otan party, which has 98 of the 107 parliamentary seats, is widely expected to win most seats.  But the elections could pave the way for a second-placed party to have a presence in parliament.  The country's one-party lower house of parliament, the Mazhilis, asked the president last week to dissolve the chamber ahead of the vote. The first part of the poll, the election from party lists, will be held on 15 January 2012.  The next day, other deputies will be chosen by the People's Assembly of Kazakhstan, a consultative body loyal to Mr Nazarbayev. Analysts and poll observers say there has not been a fair poll in the country in the last 20 years and warn that any party that manages to come second is likely to be widely sympathetic to the governing party and pose no challenge to Mr Nazarbayev's leadership. In April's presidential vote, which was criticised by international observers, Mr Nazarbayev won 95.5% of votes. In the 2005 election, he won 91.2%. His current term was to have ended in 2012, but he called the early poll after a proposal to cancel the next two elections was ruled unconstitutional. Under a 2007 constitutional amendment, there is no limit on the number of terms the former Communist PaRrty boss may serve in office. Mr Nazarbayev has argued that economic prosperity should come before democracy.  Kazakhstan is Central Asia's largest economy and oil producer and, having reformed its market, has achieved annual economic growth of around 8% over the last decade. It has attracted more than $120bn ($76bn) in foreign investment since independence.  (BBC)

Kazakhstan to render free military-technical assistance to Kyrgyzstan 16 November Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev signed the law "On ratification of the Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic on the provision of free military-technical assistance," the President's press service reported on Wednesday. The agreement between the countries was signed in Astana on March 17, 2011. Kazakhstan will provide Kyrgyzstan with military property worth roughly $3 million. According to the agreement, Kyrgyzstan can not transmit military property received from the Kazakhstan or right to use it to the third party. (Trend)

At least 16 alleged militants reported killed in the U.S. drone attack 16 November Pakistani intelligence officials say suspected U.S. drones fired missiles into two compounds in Pakistan's northwestern tribal region near the border with Afghanistan, killing at least 16 alleged militants. The officials said the strikes happened on November 16 in the South Waziristan tribal district. The area is considered to be a stronghold of Al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters. The United States does not acknowledge the CIA-run drone program in Pakistan publicly, but officials have privately said drone strikes have killed many senior Taliban and Al-Qaeda commanders. Most of the strikes have targeted Al-Qaeda militants or Afghan Taliban insurgents battling U.S. forces in Afghanistan. But the attacks have also killed Pakistani Taliban fighters, who are allied with Afghan militants but have focused their attacks mostly inside Pakistan. Those killed in this latest missile strike were said to be local Taliban fighters. (RFE/RL)

U.S.-Azerbaijani security cooperation to be mulled 16 November Secretary of the US Navy Ray Mabus will visit Azerbaijan on Nov. 20-21, the U.S. embassy reported. During his visit, Secretary Mabus will meet with Government of Azerbaijan officials to discuss U.S.-Azerbaijani security cooperation. Subordinate to the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of the Navy is responsible for the conduct of all the affairs of the Department of the Navy as its Chief Executive Officer. The Department of the Navy consists of two Uniformed Services: the United States Navy and the United States Marine Corps. The Secretary of the NAVY is responsible for the formulation and implementation of policies and programs that are consistent with the national security policies and objectives established by the President or the Secretary of Defense. (Trend)

Georgian Patriarch to leave for Moscow to celebrate Russian Orthodox Church’s Patriarch’s anniversary

16 November

The Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II will leave for Moscow on Nov.18. As the Georgian Patriarchate told Trend, he will attend events in honour of the 65th anniversary of the Russian Patriarch Kirill in Moscow. The two heads of churches will hold an important service in Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow on Nov. 20. Patriarch Ilia II will also meet with the Georgian Diaspora. Other official meetings are not scheduled. On Nov. 24 he will return to his homeland. Other heads of the Georgian Orthodox Church will accompany the Patriarch during his Moscow trip. (Trend)

 

Chechen poet Ruslan Akhtakhanov shot dead in Moscow

16 November

A prominent poet from Chechnya, Ruslan Akhtakhanov, has been shot dead in Moscow.

Police said his death appeared to be a contract killing. The 58-year-old was shot several times by an unidentified gunman as he left his car outside his home in north-west Moscow on Tuesday night. Mr Akhtakhanov had opposed the Chechen separatist movement, believing Chechnya should remain part of Russia. "An unknown person shot at Akhtakhanov twice: first in the leg and then in the head," the Investigations Committee of Russia said in a statement. The Interfax news agency quoted police sources as saying that Mr Akhtakhanov was shot at about midnight and that the killer escaped in a car which was later found several blocks away. A pistol with a silencer was found in the car. (BBC)
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The Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst is a biweekly publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program, a Joint Transatlantic Research and Policy Center affiliated with the American Foreign Policy Council, Washington DC., and the Institute for Security and Development Policy, Stockholm. For 15 years, the Analyst has brought cutting edge analysis of the region geared toward a practitioner audience.

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