Wednesday, 30 May 2007

30 May 2007 News Digest

Published in News Digest

By Alima Bissenova (5/30/2007 issue of the CACI Analyst)



17 May

Arkady Dubnov, a long-time observer of Turkmen politics, wrote in Russia's "Vremya novostei" on May 16 that the recent dismissal of Akmurat Rejepov as head of the presidential guard is only part of broader moves by President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov to consolidate power. Dubnov noted that Murad Agaev, a business owner and an associate of Rejepov, was recently arrested in Ashgabat, and that references to former President Saparmurat Niyazov in the country's state-controlled media are becoming less frequent. Dubnov quoted sources in Turkmenistan as saying that Berdymukhammedov is appointing residents of his native village, Goektepe, to posts in the security services and other agencies.



17 May

Arkady Dubnov, a long-time observer of Turkmen politics, wrote in Russia's "Vremya novostei" on May 16 that the recent dismissal of Akmurat Rejepov as head of the presidential guard is only part of broader moves by President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov to consolidate power. Dubnov noted that Murad Agaev, a business owner and an associate of Rejepov, was recently arrested in Ashgabat, and that references to former President Saparmurat Niyazov in the country's state-controlled media are becoming less frequent. Dubnov quoted sources in Turkmenistan as saying that Berdymukhammedov is appointing residents of his native village, Goektepe, to posts in the security services and other agencies. Also on May 16, the online opposition newspaper "Turkmenskaya iskra" published an unconfirmed report that Geldimuhammed Ashirmuhammedov has been relieved of his post as head of the National Security Service. (RFE/RL)



17 May

Meeting in Bishkek with a Pakistani parliamentary delegation headed by member of parliament Attiya Inayatullah, Prime Minister Almaz Atambaev said on May 17 that Kyrgyzstan plans "to build several hydroelectric power stations and wants to cooperate with Pakistan in this field." Atambaev also urged Pakistan to work actively with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which comprises China, Russia, and four Central Asian states. Pakistan holds observer status in the SCO, along with India and Mongolia. Atambaev said, "We hope Pakistan will be represented at the highest level at the SCO summit, which will be held in Bishkek on August 16, 2007." (



17 May

The Tax Committee of Kazakhstan's Finance Ministry announced on May 17 that Mittal Steel Temirtau, a subsidiary of Arcelor Metal, has evaded paying taxes in Kazakhstan. According to the Tax Committee, an audit revealed that Mittal "had not declared a profit and failed to submit a significant amount of tax to the budget." The committee did not provide specifics on the amounts involved, saying that an audit of the company's activities in 2001-05 is continuing. Mittal Steel, which plans to produce 4.4 million tons of liquid steel in Kazakhstan in 2007, had no comment on the tax charges. (Reuters)



17 May

Serzh Sarkisian confirmed in comments to journalists in Yerevan on May 16 that he intends to participate in the presidential election due in February 2008, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. The Armenian Constitution precludes incumbent President Robert Kocharian from seeking a third consecutive term. Sarkisian's Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) polled almost one-third of the vote in the May 12 parliamentary ballot, prior to which Sarkisian announced that he would run for president if his party polled over 25 percent. Sarkisian dismissed opposition allegations that the vote outcome was falsified, but vowed to ensure that both the Armenian people and the international community consider next year's presidential ballot "to be in full compliance with European standards." Taking into account the parliamentary seats it won in single-mandate constituencies, the HHK will have a total of 65 or 66 seats in the 131-member legislature, but Sarkisian nonetheless reasoned that "the more political forces are included in the government, the more trusted that government will be." He said the HHK is ready "to cooperate with any political force, any capable individual." (RFE/RL)



17 May

Testifying on May 16 on the second day of his trial in Baku, former Economic Development Minister Farhad Aliyev said the charges of corruption and abuse of his official position that he faces were falsified. He demanded that those charges be dropped, and that he be tried on the initial charges against him of plotting a coup d'etat, which he equally rejected as unfounded. Aliyev described the circumstances of his arrest in October 2005, explaining that investigators demanded that he confess that money he lent to former Finance Minister Fikret Yusifov was intended to finance an "Orange Revolution" that would bring to power former parliament speaker Rasul Quliyev. Yusifov was initially accused of involvement in the alleged coup plot, but tried and sentenced last August only on charges of illegal possession of a pistol, and released three months later. Aliyev said that his trial is the direct result of his refusal to beg forgiveness from President Ilham Aliyev (to whom he is not related) and pay $100 million. (


UZBEKISTAN PLANS TO COUNT LABOR MIGRANTS 18 May Uzbekistan's cabinet has adopted a resolution on collecting more accurate information on the number of Uzbek migrants leaving the country to find work abroad, an anonymous source in the cabinet told The source said, "The document that was adopted is intended to perfect the system for keeping track of people who leave the country to find work or engage in business, and to ensure the defense of citizens while they are abroad." The source noted that the State Statistics Committee has been asked to prepare questionnaires and conduct quarterly surveys of labor migration beginning in the third quarter of 2007. The independent news agency reported on May 4 that the authorities in Uzbekistan's Karakalpakstan Autonomous Region are developing measures to force some 200,000 Karakalpakstan residents to return to Uzbekistan from other countries where they have settled in search of work. Estimates of the numbers of Uzbek citizens working abroad vary, with some experts putting the number at a minimum of 1 million. The majority work in Kazakhstan and Russia. (



18 May

The family of former Foreign Minister Alexander Arzoumanian released a statement in Yerevan on May 17 deploring as "absurd" and politically motivated his arrest on May 7 on charges of money-laundering, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. They dubbed the arrest of Arzoumanian, who last year launched an opposition movement called Civil Disobedience, part of "an ongoing campaign by the current leadership...aimed at suppressing true democracy and human rights in Armenia" and appealed for help in securing his release. Several dozen former Armenian government officials, including former Foreign

Ministry staff, released a similar statement in support of Arzoumanian on May 9. (RFE/RL)


TAJIK PRESIDENT DEFENDS RECORD ON RELIGIOUS FREEDOMS 21 May In an interview with the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera television network broadcast on May 18, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon defended his record in response to accusations of state-sponsored repression of religion in Tajikistan. Asked whether people are harassed "just because they are Islamists," Rahmon replied that rights organizations employ double standards. Rahmon noted, "When we talk about human rights in Tajikistan, do we not forget Iraqis' rights in Iraq? Do we not mention the thousands of dead and the victims who are daily falling in Iraqi cities?" Queried about mosque closures in Tajikistan, Rahmon responded, "These are pure lies. We have at present more than 4,000 mosques that are open in Tajikistan." Asked about the ban on the Islamic veil in Tajik schools, Rahmon stated, "We are building a secular and free state," adding that students must dress "in accordance with the requirements of a modern school." (RFE/RL)



21 May

Marat Sultanov, the speaker of Kyrgyzstan's parliament, told a press conference in Bishkek on May 21 that the U.S. military base in Manas is "only for missions to Afghanistan," and that Kyrgyzstan will shut down the base if "we have any suspicions that it might be used for other purposes." Sultanov was responding to a question about the possibility of a U.S. strike on Iran from the base in Kyrgyzstan. Aleksandr Tiperov, the head of a movement seeking to close down the U.S. base in Kyrgyzstan, told a news conference in Bishkek on May 21 that the movement plans to hold a protest on June 2 under the name "Yankees out of Kyrgyzstan." "The presence of the air base is posing a threat to the citizens of Kyrgyzstan and it is inflicting a great loss on the country's environment. There is only one solution to this situation: the withdrawal of the air base," Tiperov said. The planned protest will take place outside the U.S. Embassy in Bishkek. On the issue of the Russian air base in Kant, Kyrgyzstan, Sultanov said that the Russian air base "is still a Collective Security Treaty Organization [CSTO] air base," even though Russia is the "principal tenant," and so it cannot be called "foreign." (



21 May

Marina Ivanova, the widow of a Kyrgyz citizen shot dead by a U.S. serviceman at a checkpoint at the U.S. base outside Bishkek in December 2006, called the $55,000 compensation payment she received "humiliating." Ivanova told  AP that she plans to ask for $1 million in damages. The U.S. serviceman involved has returned to the United States, where he remains under investigation. Kyrgyzstan recently asked the United States to expedite the investigation. (AP)



21 May

Some 3,000 people attended a demonstration on May 18 on Yerevan's Republic Square to protest the official results of the May 12 parliamentary election,

Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Aram Sargsian, head of the radical opposition Hanrapetutiun party, and People's Party of Armenia Chairman Stepan Demirchian separately pledged to file suit with the Constitutional Court to have the results annulled; the Orinats Yerkir (Law-Based State) and Nor Zhamanakner (New Times) parties have already announced their intention to do the same. Sargsian admitted, however, that he does not "expect the Constitutional Court to rule in our favor." Armenia's Central Election Commission convened on May 19 to ratify the final results of the May 12 ballot. But of its nine members, two representing opposition parties refused to sign the protocol on the allocation of votes in single-mandate constituencies, and a third joined them in refusing to sign that on the allocation of votes under the proportional system, which one of the dissenters described as "the gravestone on the tomb of Armenian democracy." The ruling Republican Party of Armenia will have 64 mandates in the 131-mandate legislature; the Bargavach Hayastan (Prosperous Armenia) party 25, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun 16, Orinats Yerkir 10, Zharangutiun (Heritage) seven, and Dashink (Alliance) one. (RFE/RL)



21 May

A report issued on May 15 by the Business Software Alliance concluded that Armenia has the highest rate of business-software piracy in the world. The study found that 95 percent of all business software in use in Armenia has been copied illegally. Azerbaijan and Moldova followed, with 94 percent. Ukraine's rate, 84 percent, ranked it ninth. Others in the top 10 were, in order, Zimbabwe (91 percent), Vietnam, Venezuela, Pakistan, Indonesia, and Cameroon (84 percent). This was the first time that Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Moldova were included in the annual survey. The report found that in 2006 the average rate of business-software piracy in postcommunist states (including Central Europe) was 68 percent. (RFE/RL)



21 May

Academician Guram Sharadze, 66, leader of the opposition nationalist party XXIst Century -- Language, Fatherland, Faith, was reportedly shot dead on the street in Tbilisi late on May 20 by Giorgi Barateli, a cameraman for the pro-government television station Rustavi-2. Barateli was reportedly a friend of Sharadze's son Lasha, whose death nine years ago has never been clarified, and lived for a while as a member of Sharadze's household. Sharadze was elected to parliament in 1995 and 1999, and gained notoriety for his efforts to have Jehovah's Witnesses banned in Georgia. Police apprehended Barateli, who has confessed to killing Sharadze, but his motive remains unclear. (


Nazarbayev signs constitutional amendments into law 22 May Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev has signed into law a bill amending and enlarging the constitution. The bill was approved by parliament on May 18. The law, officially published Tuesday, gives Nazarbayev - Kazakhstan's first president - the right to run for office indefinitely. All other candidates will not have the right to be elected for more than two consecutive terms. The amendments made also reduce the president's tenure from seven to five years after 2012. Nazarbayev's current seven-year term expires in 2012. He was elected president for a second consecutive term in direct presidential elections in late 2005 and took office following inauguration in January 2006. (Interfax-Kazakhstan)



Prosecutors in Almaty have warned the commercial television company KTK and the "Karavan" and "Vremya" newspapers about covering the ongoing investigation of a scandal involving Nurbank. A statement signed by Almaty Prosecutor Bagpana Taimbetova asked the media outlets to "refrain from publications or broadcasts on the course of the investigation into this criminal case without the permission of agencies involved in the preliminary investigation." The warning noted that violations could lead to the shutdown of the media outlets. Police are investigating the disappearance of Zholdas Timraliev, the deputy chairman of the board at Nurbank. The bank has been at the center of allegations of improper conduct by Rakhat Aliev, Kazakhstan's ambassador to Austria and the son-in-law of President Nursultan Nazarbaev. (Interfax-Kazakhstan)



23 May

Marie L. Yovanovitch, the U.S. ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, told and state-run Kyrgyz television KTR in Bishkek on May 22 that the U.S. airbase in Kyrgyzstan cannot and will not be used for any possible military operations against Iran. "The agreement which was signed between the United States and Kyrgyzstan in 2001, and approved by the Kyrgyz parliament, defines the tasks of the base: it will be used only for an operation in Afghanistan, which is aimed at fighting terrorism," Yovanovitch said. She added, "It is absolutely out of the question that this airbase could be used for an operation in Iran." Murat Sultanov, the speaker of Kyrgyzstan's parliament, recently warned that Kyrgyzstan will shut down the U.S. airbase if there are suspicions it might be used for a strike against Iran. (RFE/RL)


KAZAKH PRESIDENT'S SON-IN-LAW FACES KIDNAPPING CHARGE 24 May Bagdat Kozhakhmetov, a spokesman for Kazakhstan's Interior Ministry, told a press conference in Astana on May 23 that Rakhat Aliev, Kazakhstan's ambassador to Austria and the son-in-law of President Nursultan Nazarbaev, is facing criminal charges of kidnapping. Aliev is charged with kidnapping Abilmazhen Gilimov and Zholdas Timraliev, two managers at Nurbank, in late January. Timraliev is still missing. Gilimov's brother told a news conference in Almaty on May 23 that his brother told him, "Rakhat Aliev handcuffed us, threatened us with weapons and physical violence, and demanded that all of our acquaintances, friends, and relatives...give up [their] parts of the business," Reuters reported. Aliev, who is a shareholder in Nurbank, has denied allegations of improper conduct in a bid to take over the company. (Interfax-Kazakhstan)



ANOTHER INGUSH MUSLIM ABDUCTED 23 May Unidentified masked men allegedly grabbed Akhmed Kartoyev on the street in Nazran on May 22, forced him into a car and drove away. Kartoyev, who was born in 1977, is reportedly a devout Muslim and graduate of Cairo's Al-Azhar University. Between 150-200 Ingush, many of them practicing Muslims, have disappeared without trace after being similarly snatched by unknown abductors over the past two-three years. (RFE/RL)



23 May

The Association of Chechen Community and Cultural Organizations that represent Chechens in other regions of the Russian Federation has written to President Putin asking him to put a stop to efforts to whip up "anti-Chechen hysteria" among the Russian population. The appeal enumerates reprisals against Chechens in recent months and notes that in the wake of one such clash, unsubstantiated rumors began circulating that a Chechen terrorist network is active in Moscow. Association head Mavlit Bazhayev, who is a member of the Public Chamber, told the newspaper that it will take between five and 10 years to counter the stereotype image of Chechens as having "problems with the law." (RFE/RL)



24 May

Ambassador to Georgia John Tefft traveled to Sukhum(i) on May 23 where he met with Sergei Bagapsh, de facto president of the unrecognized republic of Abkhazia, Prime Minister Aleksandr Ankvab, and Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba, to discuss the prospect of resuming direct talks between Abkhazia and

Georgia. The Abkhaz side refuses to return to the negotiating table until Georgia withdraws the Interior Ministry troops it deployed in July 2006 to the Kodori Gorge. During a conversation that Tefft described as "frank," Bagapsh repeated to Tefft that the Abkhaz side considers that deployment a violation of the 1994 cease-fire agreement, but Tefft explained to journalists after his talks that the agreement does not preclude a police presence in Kodori. Bagapsh and Tefft also discussed Georgia's refusal to release an Abkhaz official detained earlier this year. Asked to comment on Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili's initiative to create a provisional pro-Georgian administration in the unrecognized republic of South Ossetia, Tefft said that the United States "supports all steps by the Georgian leadership aimed at bringing all sides in the South Ossetian conflict to the negotiating table, including Mr.

Kokoity," the region's de facto president. Ankvab briefed Tefft on the state of the Abkhaz economy and expressed interest in establishing bilateral economic cooperation. (


Georgian Labor leader calls on Saakashvili to resign 25 May Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has failed to live up to the expectations of his voters, Labor Party leader Shalva Natelashvili said. "He fulfilled none of his campaign promises, he has not returned our lost money in savings banks accounts, created new jobs or raised pensions or wages," Natelashvili said in an interview with the Moskovskiye Novosti newspaper published on Friday. "People already hate Saakashvili as a liar, as an agent of influence of certain foreign forces, as a person who created a new corrupt clan which has established unbearable, inhuman taxes for an unemployed and poor population ... Saakashvili is hated for selling our natural resources, the most precious thing for any nation," the Labor leader said. "Recently, in front of the parliament building, under the surveillance of security video cameras, 8,000 people signed a petition demanding the president's resignation, and there was still a queue of those who wanted to do so. If Saakashvili does not resign, we are going to make him leave - peacefully," he said. "Saakashvili is a classic dictator within a one-party system. He does not have his own policy and is only in power thanks to his foreign patrons. They forgive him absolutely everything - the destruction of the multi-party system, rigged elections, corruption, and the holding of political prisoners," Natelashvili said. (Interfax)


Bushehr not a threat to non-proliferation regime - Kiriyenko

25 May Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency (Rosatom) Director Sergei Kiriyenko has ruled out the United Nations' Security Council imposing sanctions in relation to Russian-Iranian nuclear cooperation. "Our cooperation with Iran has no links with Security Council demands to Tehran to attach additional guarantees to observing the non- proliferation regime," he said. "Moscow-Tehran cooperation on the construction of the Bushehr nuclear power plant is not a threat to the non-proliferation regime. Experts around the world acknowledge this," Kiriyenko said. (Interfax)



26 May

Georgia marked on May 26 the anniversary of the 1918 declaration of an independent republic. Speaking at a military parade in Tbilisi, President Mikheil Saakashvili appealed for unity as the decisive factor that has always enabled the Georgian nation to defeat its enemies. Saakashvili also defined the primary task of the Georgian armed forces as defending the country's territorial integrity, and, speaking in Ossetian, he stressed the "heroic" contribution Ossetians have made to Georgian history. Supporters of jailed former intelligence service chief Irakli Batiashvili were prevented by police when they tried to disrupt the military parade, calling for Batiashvili's release. (Caucasus Press)


More drugs confiscated in Kyrgyzstan 27 May The Kyrgyz Drug Control Agency has marked a many-time growth in the volumes of confiscated drugs in the country. The agency confiscated 1,122.5 kilograms of drugs and mind-altering substances in 2006, a 258.9% increase if compared to some 312 kilograms confiscated in 2005, a source in the agency told Interfax-AVN. "The activity of nine drug groups was suppressed, ten points of selling drugs, which existed for along time, were liquidated in the country in 2006. A total of 146 people were punished," the source said. The international activity of the agency has expanded, he said. The agency, together with its foreign partners, conducted six 'Controlled Delivery' operations (there was one similar operation in 2005), as well as six joint working-outs were implemented (three in 2005), including four with Russia's Drug Control Servcie, one with Latvia's police, while one was a multilateral one. A total of 190 kilograms of drugs and mind- altering substances, a 130% increase in comparison with 2005, were confiscated in the implementation of joint working-outs and operations, the agency said. (Interfax-AVN)


KYRGYZ PREMIER SAYS PROTESTERS 'ATTACKED' HIS MOTORCADE 28 May Speaking to reporters during his visit to the northern Kyrgyz Talas district, Prime Minister Almaz Atambaev said that the "attack" on his motorcade on May 26 was a "planned action" directed against the government, AKIpress reported. As Atambaev arrived in Talas district, his convoy was stopped by about 500 participants in a nearby demonstration by local environmental activists demanding the closure of a controversial gold mine in the area. Local police arrested eight protesters involved in the rally, sparking a demonstration of over 3,000 protesters the next day calling for the release of the detainees. Atambaev's visit to Talas was intended to defuse tension over the operations of the Andash and Jerooy gold mines, which local residents and activists say have caused significant damage to the local environment and harmed residents' health. (


Former Kazakh ambassador to Austria declared internationally wanted

28 May Former Kazakh ambassador to Austria and President Nursultan Nazarbayev's son-in-law Rakhat Aliyev has been declared internationally wanted on suspicion of involvement in abductions. "Aliyev is now in Vienna. He has been declared internationally wanted on charges of abduction," head of the Kazakh Interior Ministry press service Bagdat Kozhakhmetov told a Monday briefing in Astana. "The prosecutor's office has issued a writ for his arrest. A special team has left for Vienna led by Deputy Prosecutor General and Interpol representatives in Kazakhstan," he said. (Interfax)


Kyrgyzstan leader “was poisoned” 30 May The prime minister of Kyrgyzstan was poisoned this month with a toxin of unknown origin, a government medical report has stated. Almaz Atambayev said he was unconscious for two days after someone tried to poison him when they handed him a glass of water in his office on 11 May. Mr Atambayev said he had had death threats over a nationalisation plan. President Kurmanbek Bakiyev appointed him in March to try to curb political turmoil in the central Asian state. The presidential medical office said the diagnosis on the prime minister was "acute toxic hepatitis". It said: "According to the results of the investigation, it can be surmised... that toxins of unknown origin entered the patient's body." Mr Atambayev had blamed "some government official" for the poisoning. He said he had recovered and had no intention of resigning. Mr Atambayev linked the incident to his attempt to nationalise a semiconductor plant in Jalalabad. The government took over the Soviet-built plant in April and Mr Atambayev said he wanted to turn it into Kyrgyzstan's Silicon Valley. (BBC)
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