Thursday, 26 June 2008

25 June 2008 News Digest

Published in News Digest

By Alima Bissenova (6/26/2008 issue of the CACI Analyst)

Kazakhstan Development Bank raised $950 ml in loans this year 13 June The Development Bank of Kazakhstan (DBK) has raised $950 ml in loans over five months of the year, the bank said in a press release. Over the period the bank has also signed $700 ml worth agreements for credit facilities. The bank is currently wrapping up work on raising $400 ml more in Q3.

Kazakhstan Development Bank raised $950 ml in loans this year 13 June The Development Bank of Kazakhstan (DBK) has raised $950 ml in loans over five months of the year, the bank said in a press release. Over the period the bank has also signed $700 ml worth agreements for credit facilities. The bank is currently wrapping up work on raising $400 ml more in Q3. “A significant increase in borrowed funds comes in line with DBK strategic development plan for 2008-2011. This year the bank plans to increase lending at beneficial terms to infrastructure and industrial sectors," according to the press release. "The borrowed funds will create a foundation for investment activities in 2008 and 2009," bank CEO Mukan Sagindykov was quoted as saying in the press release. DBK also plans to resume the flotation of the 5th tranche of Eurobonds if a so-called "investment window" opens. DBK was founded in 2001 with 100% of state-s participation within implementation of the strategy of industrial-innovative development of the republic scheduled until 2015. The bank extends loans for mid- and long-term investment projects in production and non-resource industries. (Interfax-Kazakhstan)


Chechen authorities deny hostages taken during militant raid 13 June The administration chief of a district in Russia's North Caucasus republic of Chechnya where militants killed three civilians in a raid denied on Friday reports that hostages were taken. A group of around 60 militants attacked the village of Benoi-Vedeno in the Nozhai-Yurt district of eastern Chechnya on Thursday night, burning down five houses. A police source earlier said several people were taken hostage in the raid. District chief Akhmed Khatatayev said: "No hostages were taken. When the militants left the village, they seized a car together with its owner. After leaving the village, they let the driver out, and set fire to the car." The police source said that all of those killed were members of a family named Yasayev. The search for the attackers is ongoing. Sporadic terrorist attacks and militant clashes remain common in Russia's North Caucasus republics, although the active phase of the Kremlin campaign to fight militants and terrorists in Chechnya is officially over. Violence often spills over into neighboring republics, in particular Ingushetia and Daghestan. (RIA Novosti) Inmates flee after Afghanistan prison attack 14 June Up to 400 Taliban militants are on the run after a mass prison break out in Afghanistan's southern Kandahar city. A state of emergency has been declared in Kandahar as troops and police conduct a street by street search for escapees. The jail break happened after Taliban militants blew open the main gate of Kandahar jail with a suicide car bomb. Forty militants stormed inside, shooting guards and opening cell doors. Some inmates stayed behind, some died in the fighting but Afghan authorities say it appears almost the entire prison population of 1,150 made a getaway on foot. The escape of up to 400 Taliban prisoners is deeply embarrassing for the Karzai Government currently seeking $50 billion over five years from donor nations and it will anger US and NATO soldiers who have, until now, been handing Taliban prisoners over to Afghan authorities. (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)


Abkhazian, S Ossetian presidents discuss military cooperation 16 June The Presidents of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Sergei Bagapsh and Eduard Kokoity, met on Monday to discuss joint military measures to be taken in case of the resumption of military actions in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. According to the Abkhazian government’s press department, the meeting took place due to the complication of the situation in South Ossetia when Tskhinvali was shot down on June 14 from Georgia’s villages of Ergneti and Nikozi. During the talks, Bagapsh and Kokoity noted that Georgia’s actions “prove that it continue pursuing the hostile policy and working out plans on resuming conflicts with South Ossetia and Abkhazia.” On military cooperation, Bagapsh and Kokoity determined joint measures in case of the resumption of military actions in South Ossetia and Abkhazia in compliance with the existing agreement. (Itar-Tass)


U.S. delegation visits Abkhazia for Georgia peace talks 16 June A U.S. delegation from a NATO group has arrived in Abkhazia on a two-day visit to try and restart talks between the breakaway region and Georgia, broken off in 2006, Abkhazia's Foreign Ministry said Monday. The members of the Atlantic Council, a non-profit organization which provides information about NATO, are scheduled to meet on Monday with Abkhazian President Sergei Bagapsh and Prime Minister Alexandr Ankvab, along with other high-ranking officials. "The keynote of these meetings will be a possible resumption of the Georgian-Abkhaz negotiation process," the ministry said in an official statement. The delegation is due to meet with representatives from local non-governmental organizations Tuesday. Abkhazia broke away from Georgia in the early 1990s following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Between 10,000 and 30,000 people were killed in the subsequent hostilities. The two sides signed a ceasefire in 1994 in Moscow. Peace talks between Abkhazia and Georgia broke off in July 2006 when Tbilisi sent troops into Abkhazia's Kodori Gorge and established an alternative Abkhaz administration there. (RIA Novosti)


Russia, Kazakhstan to hold joint airborne exercise 17 June About 1,500 Russian and Kazakh servicemen will participate in joint tactical airborne exercises in Kazakhstan, a Russian Airborne Troops spokesman told Interfax-AVN. "Russia will send up to 200 airborne troops to the drill, and Kazakhstan will provide some 1,200 airmobile troops," the spokesman said. Military hardware and aircraft will be involved, too. The joint tactical exercise, Interaction 2008, will include airborne operations and shooting practice. It will last from July 5 to 11 at the Kazakh armed forces' training center near the town of Gvardeisky. Kazakh and Russian representatives examined the terrain and coordinated the plan of the exercise ahead of the drill in Almaty. (Interfax-AVN) Kazakhstan to establish National School of Public Policy 17 June Kazakhstan's president Nursultan Nazarbaev voices an initiative of creating National School of Public Policy within the Academy of State Management. "A school, of the same type as Lee Kuan Yew School in Singapore, must become an important link in the system of hiring and training future leaders and play a key role in creating a new elite in professorial state service," the president said at the conference Role of State Service in County's Competitiveness on Tuesday in Astana. According to Nazarbaev, a new school will become a modern educational institution led by the person appointed by the head of state. "Experienced international managers should be engaged in school management, while the supervisory council should be formed of the most repeatable public futures in Kazakhstan and western professors," he said. "The school will be training state managers on the basis of strong scientific and methodological principles alongside with practical training," he said. (Interfax-Kazakhstan) President suggests trimming political officials 17 June Kazakhstan's president Nursultan Nazarbaev has set a task for his administration and state service agency to draft a new concept of state service. "We would like to obtain such political system, when political leaders who won the trust of people will be forming a policy, while professional state officials will ensure it works," the president said at the conference Role of State Service in County's Competitiveness on Tuesday in Astana. "We have to draw a clear division line between political officials and state service. In my opinion the number of political officials have to be trimmed. Politicians are the public figures nominated by the party that won the election," Nazarbaev said. "In the current state of affairs, they (political state officials "IF-K".) include ministers, regional and city akims and also heads of central state agencies. All of them are members of the party that won the parliamentary majority to pursue government's action plan as its platform," he said. "Personal traits of political officials have to bolster the party's profile, not vice versa. They will have to comply with rigorous requirements in terms of professional ethnics and party discipline," the president said. "For strengthening the state human resource policy, a special committee will be formed, which I will personally supervise at an early stage," Nazarbaev said. (Interfax-Kazakhstan) Taleban capture Afghan villages 17 June Some 500 Taleban fighters have taken over several villages in southern Afghanistan, BBC reports on Tuesday referring to local officials.The reports come three days after about 350 Taleban fighters escaped from a jail in Kandahar. Afghan and NATO officials have said they are redeploying troops to respond to "any potential threats" from the escaped rebels, BBC indicates in the report. (Interfax) Iran said withdraws $75 billion from Europe, newspaper 17 June Iran has withdrawn around $75 billion (38 billion pounds) from Europe to prevent the assets from being blocked under threatened new sanctions over Tehran's disputed nuclear ambitions, Iranian weekly Shahrvand-e Emrouz said on Monday. "About $75 billion of Iran's foreign assets which were under threat of being blocked were wired back to Iran based on Ahmadinejad's order," the weekly said. "Part of Iran's assets in European banks have been converted to gold and shares and another part has been transferred to Asian banks," Mohsen Talaie, deputy foreign minister in charge of economic affairs, was quoted as saying. (Interfax)


Four Russian peacekeepers set free in Georgia 18 June Four Russian soldiers from the Collective Peacekeeping Force, who were arrested by the Georgian police in the Zugdidi District on Tuesday evening allegedly “for the transportation of ammunition and anti-tank guided missiles without coordination with the local law enforcement agencies,” were set free and turned over to representatives of the command of the Collective Peacekeeping Force on Tuesday night, representatives of the local administration of the Zugdidi District told journalists on Wednesday morning. A newsreel featuring the release of the soldiers and their turning over to the command of the Peacekeeping Force was shown by several Georgian TV companies on Wednesday. The registered weapons and personal belongings were given back to them. Representatives of the local administration of the Zugdidi District said that “criminal proceedings were instituted on the case of the transportation of missiles and ammunition by Russian troops. The case is being investigated.” According to their information, “if it is established that such missiles and ammunition are not allowed to be transported in the conflict zone, they will be confiscated.” In his turn, a representative of the command of the southern section of the Peacekeeping Force, to whom the released soldiers were turned over, said the Peacekeeping Force would raise the question of the return of the arrested truck, weapons and ammunition.” In his opinion, “if the missiles and ammunition were transported illegally, they should be returned to the Ghali District, from which they were moved to the Zugdidi District.” Representatives of the Georgian defence ministry said on Tuesday that the actions of the soldiers, who transported ammunition and anti-tank guided missiles without the coordination with the local law enforcement agencies, “constituted a unilateral violation of the existing agreements.” The truck of the Peacekeeping Force and four soldiers going in it, including the driver, were arrested, in order to establish the circumstances of the incident. They were taken to the police station of the Zugdidi District. Representatives of the command of the southern section of the Peacekeeping Force, deployed in Zugdidi, as well as members of the U.N. military observers mission, were informed of the incident. Representatives of the local administration said that “the movement of the truck belonging to the Peacekeeping Force from the Ghali District to the Zugdidi District was not coordinated with the Georgian authorities, which is required by the existing procedures and the mandate of the Peacekeeping Force.” The Peacekeeping Force has been deployed in the conflict zone since 1994. It is made up of Russian units. The northern section of the security zone includes the Ghali District, controlled by Abkhazia, and the southern section includes the Zugdidi and Tsalendzhikh Districts, controlled by Georgia. The village of Rukhi, Zugdidi District, borders on the Ghali District.  (Itar-Tass)


Turkmenistan, Russia, Kazakhstan to put together a Caspian gas pipeline agreement 19 June On Wednesday Ashgabad hosted a first session of a three-party coordination committee for promotion of a large-scale project of Caspian gas pipeline construction and upgrade of the existing inter-state gas transport system. Chief executives of Turkmengas, Gazprom and KazMunayGas attended the session, broadcasted national TV of Turkmenistan. Representatives of Turkmenistan, Russia and Kazakhstan have agreed to devise a keynote agreement for project implementation, according to the broadcast. (Interfax)


Court calls illegal almost $840 mln tax surcharge on Arcelor Mittal Temirtau 19 June The supervisory board of Kazakhstan's Karaganda Regional Court has turned down the demand of the Kazakh Finance Ministry Tax Committee to levy over 101 billion tenge in taxes on Arcelor Mittal Temirtau. The current exchange rate is 120.63 tenge to the dollar. The board said that the additional charge of the corporate income tax would be illegal. The board also ordered a refund of about 1.5 billion tenge the company paid when it lodged appeals with the Economic Court and the Regional Court. The largest metallurgical plant in Kazakhstan, Arcelor Mittal Temirtau (former Ispat Karmet), is a component of the steel giant Arcelor Mittal. The international group purchased the Kazakh plant in the mid 1990s. (Interfax)


Prime Minister and WB president to observe progress in Aral Sea preservation 19 June Kyzylorda. June 19. Interfax-Kazakhstan - Prime Minister Karim Masimov and World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick on Thursday arrived in Kyzylorda oblast to proceed to the Aral region by helicopter and check out the facilities built on Syrdarya River within Syr Darya Control & Northern Aral Sea Project. The delegation will also have a tour around Kokaral Dumb to observe the second stage of the project and hold a press conference along with the oblast akim Boltabek Kuandykov. Prior to their arrival in Kyzylorda the parties met officially in Astana on Wednesday night "to discuss cooperation between Kazakhstan and World Bank, the reform in state management and the country's economic development." Other issues on agenda included "state investment in human resources, development of education and training of personal," according to Prime Minister press office. Syr Darya Control & Northern Aral Sea Project seeks to sustain, and increase agriculture, and fish production in the Syr Darya basin, and secure the NAS existence, by improving ecological and environmental conditions in the delta area. The project was backed by Central Asian States in 1994. The first phase of the project is estimated at $85.79 ml, including $64.5 ml funds provided by World Bank and $21.29 ml allocated by Kazakhstan's state budget. Syr Darya Control & Northern Aral Sea Phase 2 Project was initiated by president Nursultan Nazarbaev during his visit to Kyzylorda oblast in April 2005. The feasibility study for the second phase is carried out by Arcadis Euroconsult, DHI Water& Environment, Jacobs-Babtie and Kazgiprovodkhoz. The estimated cost of the Phase 2 is $250 ml, according to the press release. (Interfax-Kazakhstan)


Armenian Opposition to Hold a Rally in the center of Erevan 20 June The Armenian Opposition will hold a national rally in the center of the capital Yerevan on Friday. This is going to be the first mass action by the supporters of the former presidential candidate, Armenia’s first president, Levon Ter-Petrosian, 63. After losing the February 19 presidential election he agreed to lead a powerful anti-government movement. After a ten-day-long round-the-clock rally, dispersed by police there followed mass rioting in the center of Yerevan on March 1 and 2. Ten died and some 200 others were injured. The National People’s Movement Center has said in a statement the organizers of Friday’s rally will seek to draw the attention of the public at large and the authorities to progress in restoring democratic freedoms in the republic, including the implementation of Resolution 1609 of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on the activity of democratic institutions in Armenia. “We welcome the promise given by the police to prevent mass rioting and crimes during the rally,” the Opposition said. It also believes that “the attitude to provocateurs must be very harsh and the right of other citizens to demonstrate must not be abused.” The Opposition disclaims the responsibility for the March 1-2 clashes and blames the rioting on provocateurs. The rally’s organizers have voiced the readiness to cooperate with the police in maintaining law and order at the event. Originally, the Opposition intended to gather its supporters in the square in front of the opera theater. The city authorities denied permission to offer an alternative site – the area in front of the Institute of Ancient Manuscripts. (Itar-Tass)


Tajikistan adds to hydropower supply 23 June A plant manager in Tajikistan says one of the electricity-starved country's largest hydropower plants has started up another generating unit.Authorities hope the increased power from the Sangtudinsk plant, run by Russian utility United Energy System, will help the poverty-stricken Central Asian nation avoid a repeat of last winter's crippling power shortages. Plant chief Rakhmetulla Alzhanov said Monday that the unit will be run on a trial basis for five days. Despite having massive potential for hydropower generation, Tajikistan has been repeatedly hit by electricity outages, made worse this year by an unusually cold winter. President Emomali Rakhmon has called for all four units at the 670-megawatt Sangtudinsk plant to be activated by year's end. (AP)


US air tanker dumps 30 tonnes of fuel over Kyrgyzstan 23 June Bishkek - A US military jet tanker dumped 30 tonnes of airline fuel over the mountains in southern Kyrgyzstan in an emergency manoeuvre, the US military reported Monday. The fuel was ditched when "a pressurization problem, caused smoke and caustic fumes in the cockpit about an hour into a refuelling mission to support operations in Afghanistan," a spokesman for the US Manas air base near the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek said Monday.  "Given the critical nature of the emergency, the aircrew ... was compelled to jettison the fuel to reach a safe landing weight," he said. The refuelling tanker threw out the fuel at roughly 7,300 metres (24,000 feet) at which height the fuel should have vaporized before hitting the ground, according to the air base. Washington has rented the military air base in Kyrgyzstan since 2001 to field its operations in nearby Afghanistan, but the base has difficult relations with the local community since a Kyrgyz man was shot by a US soldier in 2006. The Manas military base is a mere 30 kilometres from a similar Russian air base. (The Earth Times)


PACE summer session set to discuss Georgia, Armenia, Kosovo 23 June The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe will discuss a number of issues during its summer session June 23-27, including Kosovo, Georgia's elections, Azerbaijan and recent protests in Armenia. Although Kosovo is expected to be the center of attention with Serbian President Boris Tadic due to address the Assembly on Thursday, Armenia's February presidential elections and the ensuing violence and crackdown by the authorities on the opposition and public meetings are planned for discussion in an urgent debate. Ten people were killed, 265 injured and over 100 arrested in clashes between police and opposition protesters in Yerevan March 1, when protests turned violent following President Serzh Sarkisyan's victory in the February 19 presidential elections. PACE co-rapporteurs, who visited Armenia June 16-17, said that insufficient progress had been made in carrying out the EU's demands urging institutional reforms, less state interference in the media and more rights for opposition groups. Democratic institutions in Azerbaijan, protecting the environment on the Caspian Sea and Georgia's parliamentary elections are also on the agenda at the Council of Europe meeting. The head of the State Duma's international affairs committee, Konstantin Kosachyov, said "the report [on Georgia's elections] will be extremely hard-hitting for Georgia's authorities," but failed to elaborate further. The five-day session could also see the Council of Europe discuss a future report on the 1931-33 famine in the former Soviet Union which affected millions of people in Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus, as well as Russia's grain producing regions of the North Caucasus, Urals, West Siberia and the Volga Region. In April, during PACE's spring session, the Assembly supported a move by a number of Ukrainian politicians, that the famine or Holodomor be considered an act of genocide against Ukrainians by the Soviet authorities. Ukraine is planning to draft a document on the Holodomor. Russia's delegation, however, wants a joint document to all the estimated 7 million victims of the famine following the brutal introduction of collectivization by Soviet authorities. Europe has given its approval for the drafting of a joint document, but Ukraine is insisting the famine be considered as separate acts. Kosachyov said: "A key decision to draft a joint document has been made, but no decision as yet on the document's title, and, more importantly, on the authors." (RIA Novosti)


US AND CENTRAL ASIAN NATIONS WORK TO SIMPLIFY TRADE 24 June Representatives of the U.S. and several Central Asian nations this week approved measures aimed at simplifying trade within Central Asia, and between the region and the U.S., reported Dow Jones. Officials from Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyz Republic and the U.S. met in Tajikistan early this week for the fourth annual gathering of the Council of the U.S.-Central Asia Trade and Investment Framework Agreement. Afghanistan's president of international trade also attended the meeting as an observer. At the meeting, the officials adopted policies aimed at measuring progress made toward simplifying import and export procedures and discussed ways to eliminate physical barriersto trade. The group plans to create a single point of submission for import and export documents and to make administrative requirements more transparent,reported the office of the U.S. Trade Representative. The officials said much progress has been made since the council's 2007 meeting but acknowledged that challenges remain. The group is scheduled to meet again next summer. (Asia Pulse)


Kyrgyzstan To Ink Agreement On Water Reserves Joint Use 24 June Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan must sign an agreement on joint use of water reserves announced Kyrgyz Prime Minister Igor Chudinov at the meeting with George A. Krol, U.S. Under Secretary of State for South and Central Asia. According to Mr Chudinov, "the vegetation season on the Toktogul hydro power plant is of mutual benefit for Kyrgyzstan and neighboring countries. "The question is not about paying for the water. We ask countries to pay for run-off control and the water reservoir maintenance," he added. (Asia Pulse)


Azerbaijan convicts editor, colleague of treason 24 June A newspaper editor and his colleague in Azerbaijan were convicted Tuesday of treason Tuesday and sentenced to prison. Novruzali Mammadov, the editor of Talysh Sado, or Voice of the Talysh, was arrested in February 2007 together with the paper's administrator, Elman Guliyev. Mammadov was sentenced to 10 years in prison, while Guliyev was sentenced to six years imprisonment.The editor's lawyer, Ramiz Mammadov, said his client was innocent of treason and will appeal. Prosecutors accused the two of Talysh nationalism and undermining Azerbaijan's statehood. The Talysh live in the south of the former Soviet republic and have close cultural ties to neighboring Iran. Guliyev acknowledged in court that the paper had received $1,000 per month from Talysh organizations in Iran. The government of oil-rich Azerbaijan has faced persistent criticism over heavy-handed treatment of independent media and opposition parties. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, a rights group, passed a resolution Tuesday expressing concern at what it called the deteriorating human rights situation in Azerbaijan ahead of the presidential election in October. The resolution condemned restrictions on freedom of expression — including harassment and intimidation of opposition journalists — and limits on freedom of assembly and association. (AP)


Russia, Armenia to develop strategic partnership relations 24 June Russia and Armenia will develop their relations on the basis of large-scale strategic cooperation. “The cooperation will have the spirit of mutual trust, respect of the sovereignty, a peaceful settlement of disputes, not using force or a threat of force, non-interference in internal affairs of each other, equality and mutual benefit,” says a joint statement by the Russian and Armenian presidents, Dmitry Medvedev and Serzh Sargsian. Moscow and Yerevan “attach priority significance to the deepening of mutually beneficial economic cooperation”. The statement also cites as priorities the cooperation in the fuel and energy sector, transport, communications, steel, mining and processing industries and in the innovation sphere. The sides “will help the preservation of cultural and spiritual closeness of the two countries’ peoples and deepen relations in the sphere of culture, science, education, information and health care”. “The Russian and Armenian presidents are convinced that the current stage of the two countries’ relations opens a broad prospect for ally interaction and the intensive deepening of relations in all fields in the interest of development of the national economy, culture, ensuring peace, stability and guaranteed security in the Caucasus region and in the whole world,” the document says. The joint statement has 14 points presenting views of the presidents on different aspects of bilateral and international relations. (Itar-Tass) US-backed radio says Turkmen commentator tortured 25 June Turkmen security forces detained and tortured a commentator for a U.S.-backed radio station after he had refused to stop working for the broadcaster, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) said. "Today a contributor to RFE/RL's Turkmen Service (Radio Azatlyk) was found beaten and tortured for refusing to sign a letter in which he agreed to stop reporting for RFE/RL," the station said in a statement released late on Tuesday. The Prague-based station said Sazak Durdymuradov told his wife he "wanted to die" after she found him at a state security detention centre. RFE/RL is a U.S.-funded station that broadcasts news into eastern Europe, the Middle East, Caucasus and central Asia, including a number of countries where governments keep a tight grip over media. Its reporters have been prosecuted or harassed and its broadcasts blocked in several places. Durdymuradov is a regular commentator on education and constitutional reforms. Turkmenistan, a gas-rich former Soviet central Asian state, has been opening up after decades of isolation but has been sharply criticised by foreign watchdogs for human rights abuses. Amnesty International said ahead of this week's visit of a EU delegation to Turkmenistan that widespread and systematic violations of human rights continue and "impunity pervades for police, security services and other government authorities". "This is a hideous incident, made all the more so by the fact that President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov's government was engaged in a EU dialogue about human rights at the same time that Mr. Durdymuradov was being tortured by its agents," RFE/RL President Jeffrey Gedmin said in the statement. Some rights activists and opposition politicians accuse the West of putting energy above democracy in its contacts with Turkmenistan, a charge Western governments have denied. (Reuters)


Saakashvili, Rice discuss peaceful Abkhazian settlement – Fried 25 June Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice discussed the peaceful settlement of the conflict in Abkhazia within the internationally recognised borders, U.S. Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Daniel Fried said in Berlin on Wednesday. Fried told Georgian journalists that Saakashvili and Rice would focus on stepping up the peaceful settlement of the conflict in Abkhazia and the U.S. and the world’s contribution to this process. The Abkhazian region is part of Georgia and the conflict should be settled on the base of respect and the principle of sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia, Fried stressed. (Itar-Tass)
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