Wednesday, 02 December 2009

25 November 2009 News Digest

Published in News Digest

By Alima Bissenova (12/2/2009 issue of the CACI Analyst)

Slain Kazakh Opposition Figure’s son gets Government Job

13 November

The son of a late Kazakh opposition figure has been appointed to an Almaty City administration post on the eve of the anniversay of his father's mysterious death, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports. Kayrat Nurkadilov was named the chief of the Almaty City Housing Department on November 11. His father, Zamanbek Nurkadilov, was a close associate of President Nursultan Nazarbaev for many years but in 2004 became an active opponent of the president.

Slain Kazakh Opposition Figure’s son gets Government Job

13 November

The son of a late Kazakh opposition figure has been appointed to an Almaty City administration post on the eve of the anniversay of his father's mysterious death, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports. Kayrat Nurkadilov was named the chief of the Almaty City Housing Department on November 11. His father, Zamanbek Nurkadilov, was a close associate of President Nursultan Nazarbaev for many years but in 2004 became an active opponent of the president. He was found shot dead in his house in Almaty on November 12, 2005. Although he had two bullet wounds in his chest and one bullet wound in his head, his death was officially announced as a suicide. Unlike previous years, Kazakh opposition leaders and activists did not mark Nurkadilov's death, which they consider to have been murder. (RFE/RL)


Chechen leader says special forces kill 20 rebels

13 November

Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov says security forces have killed up to 20 Islamic rebels.  In a statement posted on the Chechen government website, Kadyrov said he believed one of those killed in Friday's battle may have been Doku Umarov, who has declared himself the head of a North Caucasus "emirate." Kadyrov said helicopter gunships opened fire on the rebels before special forces launched a ground operation in Shalazh, 30 kilometers southwest of Grozny.  There has been no independent confirmation of the government's account of the battle.  Attacks in Russia's southern republics have risen in recent months.  Local leaders blame clan feuds, poverty, Islamism and heavy-handed tactics by law enforcement authorities for the upsurge. In his state of the nation address on Thursday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said violence in the North Caucasus region, which includes Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia, was Russia's biggest domestic problem. (RFE/RL)


OPEC lauds azeri potential

13 November

Oil production from Azerbaijan for 2010 is expected to increase more than any other former Soviet country, OPEC predicts. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries in its November report said oil production from Azerbaijan will increase 0.13 million barrels per day in 2010. Kazakhstan, for its part, is expected to increase its oil production by 0.08 million barrels per day. For the fourth quarter of 2009, the OPEC cartel expects Azerbaijan to produce 1.07 million barrels per day, the Trend news agency reports. Proven crude oil reserves in Azerbaijan are estimated at 7 billion barrels. Most of its reserves lie in the offshore Azeri Chirag Guneshli field. The ACG oil field is the third largest in the world as surveyed by the American IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates. Azerbaijan exports its Azeri light crude blend primarily to Turkish ports on the Mediterranean Sea through the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, the second longest in the world. (UPI)


Baku officials slams “bias” over blogger verdicts

17 November

An official in Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev's administration says the international community's reaction to the case of two bloggers given jail sentences last week is biased, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.  Ali Hasanov, head of the Azerbaijani president's Social and Political Affairs Department, said Azerbaijani law "applies equally to everyone and there is no special treatment for intellectuals and those who are closer to the West, like the bloggers." A Baku court on November 11 sentenced Adnan Hajizada and Emin Milli to two and 2 1/2 years in prison, respectively, on hooliganism charges for an altercation at a Baku restaurant on July 8.  International organizations such as the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have strongly condemned the case and said the charges against the bloggers are politically motivated. Hasanov said the Azerbaijani courts are independent and the government cannot influence judicial verdicts. He added that "if the bloggers disagree with the court's verdict, they can take their case to the European Court of Human Rights." Hasanov said many Azerbaijanis are charged with hooliganism every year but international organizations do not protest against those convictions.  He countered that "the state of freedom of speech in Azerbaijan is not worse than that in France, Germany, and Italy."(RFE/RL)


Kyrgyz Deport Russian Rights Activist

19 November

A Russian human rights activist, Bahrom Hamroev, has been deported from Kyrgyzstan while gathering information connected with his work, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports. Hamroev is said to have been in the southern part of the country in an effort to collect information on alleged abuses against Muslims, who make up a majority of Kyrgyzstan's population. He is a member of the Moscow-based Memorial Human Rights Center, a leading rights-advocacy group that has been critical of government abuses throughout the former Soviet Union. A Memorial representative said a local rights activist, Izzatilla Rahmatillaev, was detained along with Hamroev. Vitaly Ponomarev, the director of Memorial's Central Asian program, told RFE/RL that Hamroev's mobile phone and camera were confiscated by police in Osh and he was put on a flight back to Moscow. Rahmatillaev was later released. Islamic extremists are frequently blamed for antistate activities in all five of Central Asia's post-Soviet republics, none of which receive high marks from the U.S. government or international NGOs for their rights records. (RFE/RL)


Kazakhstan adopts tough privacy protection law

19 November

Kazakhstan has approved a bill introducing tougher punishment for invasion of privacy in a move condemned by the opposition as an attack on press freedom. Democracy, media freedom, and human rights are under intense scrutiny in Kazakhstan as the Central Asian state prepares to take the helm of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 2010. Kazakhstan's upper house of parliament approved the bill unanimously. President Nursultan Nazarbaev now needs to sign it into law -- largely a formality. Nazarbaev's opponents have said that the new law, which introduces jail terms for crimes against privacy, would further limit freedom of speech in a country where mainstream media never criticize the president. "This is yet another attempt to shut everyone up," opposition leader Zharmakhan Tuyakbai said last week commenting on the draft law. International rights groups say Kazakhstan, a former Soviet republic that has never held elections judged free and fair by the OSCE itself, has not fulfilled its promises to bring more democracy and continued to crack down on political dissent. The government has rejected accusations of intolerance to dissent and biased trials against its critics. Adil Soz, a media rights group, urged parliament last month to reject the latest draft, saying it was too tough and would give the authorities an excuse to silence independent or investigative reporting. The government says the law would help protect people's rights and curb crimes against privacy such as publishing data on people's savings or private correspondence without their consent. The bill follows a series of leaks of what appears to be private conversations between former and current senior officials posted on various websites, including YouTube. Earlier this year, Kazakhstan adopted a law allowing the government to block websites posting "illegal" information. (Reuters)


Azerbaijani President Criticizes Armenia On Karabakh Talks

19 November

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has accused Armenia of delaying efforts to resolve the conflict over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports. Speaking at the opening of an apartment building in Baku for 369 internally displaced families on November 17, Aliyev said that although the OSCE Minsk Group was established in 1992 to resolve the Karabakh dispute, he said there have been no results from their activities.  Aliyev said the main issue in the OSCE-led talks with the Armenians is the "withdrawal of Armenian troops from all seven occupied territories," referring to the Azerbaijani areas around Nagorno-Karabakh that are occupied by Armenian forces. Aliyev said Azerbaijanis who have been displaced from those territories and Karabakh are "also part of the discussion" and act as "a stimulus for us to participate in negotiations."  He said Armenian negotiators "keep dragging their feet over issues and prolonging the negotiations." But Aliyev said such a tactic "will not give them anything," and that Armenia's goal is to "populate our lands with Armenians, but they don't have enough people.”Aliyev said that Armenia’s population has fallen to 1.7 million (contradicting an official estimate of 3.26 million in 2008.) “It will be difficult for them to defend their front line," he said. In contrast, he continued, "Azerbaijan's opportunities, economy, and demography are growing. Our population is already 9 million. In five or six years we are going to be 10 million." Aliyev predicted that in a few years, the Azerbaijani economy will be 13-15 times larger than Armenia's. Aliyev and Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian will meet under the auspices of the OSCE at the French Consulate in Munich on November 22 for further talks on Karabakh. (RFE/RL)


Rocket Hits Luxury Hotel In Kabul, Four Wounded

21 November

A rocket hit the outside wall of the luxury Serena Hotel in Kabul today, wounding four people, including two boys, a Health Ministry official said. Ministry spokesman Ahmad Raaid said an Afghan soldier was also hurt in the attack. "None of the wounds are serious," he told Reuters. An employee of the Serena Hotel said there was no damage to the hotel itself. Witnesses said police had sealed off roads leading to the building. Several rockets were fired at the hotel three weeks ago, forcing more than 100 people to rush into an underground bunker. On the same day, gunmen killed five foreign UN staff in a separate attack on a Kabul guesthouse. In January 2008, several Taliban gunmen stormed the hotel, which is near the presidential palace, killing six people including a Norwegian journalist. The Norwegian foreign minister, who was staying there at the time, was unhurt. Since then, security has been stepped up at the hotel. Violence in Afghanistan is at its worst levels since the Taliban was overthrown in 2001. The Islamist militants have spread their insurgency from the south and east of the country into previously peaceful areas. (Reuters)





NATO takes command of Afghan army, police training

21 November

NATO took command of the training of the Afghan army and police today to consolidate efforts on building an effective security force, a vital precondition for the withdrawal of foreign troops. The existing U.S. training mission, CSTC-A, until now responsible for most of the training, is to merge with the new NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan (NTM-A), under a single NATO command, commanders said today at a ceremony in Kabul. Deputy commander of the new NATO mission Major General Michael Ward said he believed the move would encourage more NATO training personnel to be sent to Afghanistan, helping to speed the expansion of local forces. "I'm very optimistic. We've identified what our needs are and we're bringing those back to NATO to get nations to contribute and we've already seen in this run-up, a significant number of people coming in with exactly the right skills," Ward told Reuters. There are some 110,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, including 68,000 Americans, fighting the Taliban that has spread its insurgency from the south and east of the country into previously peaceful areas. At present there are about 95,000 Afghan soldiers and about 93,000 police. In his assessment of the war, the commander in Afghanistan, U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal, has recommended local security forces be eventually raised to a total of 400,000 soldiers and police. Ward said the immediate aim was to increase the army to 134,000 and the police force to 96,800 by October 2010. U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to decide in the coming weeks whether to send up a further 40,000 soldiers to Afghanistan, which McChrystal says he needs. Military commanders believe the foreign troops can ultimately only buy time before the Afghan Army and police force are expanded. Only when they are able to provide security for themselves will foreign troops be able to leave. (Reuters)


Uzbekistan Closes Border With Kazakhstan

23 November

Uzbekistan has closed its border with Central Asian neighbor Kazakhstan to all but citizens of each nation returning home, the Kazakh Foreign Ministry said today, as swine flu spreads in both countries. Kazakh media and residents of the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, have connected the move to fears about an outbreak of the H1N1 flu virus, but this has not been confirmed by the authorities there. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported on November 20 that Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and parts of Afghanistan were reporting higher numbers of flu cases. "The initiative did not come from the Kazakh side," Kazakh Foreign Ministry spokesman Yerzhan Ashykbayev told a briefing. "There is no official information on the reasons behind this decisions." Uzbekistan's Foreign Ministry could not be reached for comment. Tashkent regularly closes its borders with its other neighbors Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan for security reasons before national holidays such as the Constitution Day, marked on December 8. Parliamentary elections are also due in Uzbekistan next month. (Reuters)


Ingushetia boss admits corruption fuels rebellion

23 November

The leader of Russia's Muslim republic of Ingushetia, who narrowly survived an assassination attempt in June, conceded on November 22 that widespread state corruption was helping an Islamist insurgency in the region. He declined to say what proportion of officials were corrupt, but acknowledged the problem was bad enough to fuel a cycle of violence and crime that has put his impoverished region at the heart of mounting violence across the North Caucasus. "Bandits give money to officials, knowing they can be easily paid off," Yunus-Bek Yevkurov told Reuters in an interview during a trip to the Russian capital. "This in turn means officials are [aiding] the terrorists and militants." He added that law-enforcement agencies were also behind eight kidnappings this year. The leader, who spent two months in hospital including a fortnight in a coma after a suicide bomber blew up his car in June, said he was banking on a stabilization program including harsher punishment for corrupt officials.When Yevkurov was appointed just over a year ago, he immediately sacked his entire cabinet, pledging to reduce corruption. He admitted his efforts had yet to show progress. "We underestimated the situation before and this was a mistake.... But I believe in myself, that I will control it by punishment," he said, adding that more officials still needed to be stripped of the power they had amassed in the previous government. The decorated paratrooper, who led Russian troops in a showdown with NATO forces at Pristina airport during the Kosovo war in 1999, was chosen by the Kremlin to replace Murat Zyazikov, whom rights groups accuse of murder and corruption. Yevkurov is largely credited with securing an aid package from the Kremlin worth 32 billion roubles ($980 million) over the next six years. Over half of Ingushetia's economically active population are unemployed, and 90 percent of the region's revenues are subsidies from Moscow. He aims to use the aid package to develop the economy and create jobs, in the hope that this will reduce crime. Armed attacks on authorities and law-enforcement agencies are a near daily occurrence in the region of 470,000 people bordering Chechnya, where Moscow has gone to war with rebels twice in the past two decades. He said his biggest challenge was to prevent "disenchanted, disappointed" young men being drawn into the insurgency by creating more jobs and establishing social programs. Having grown up with a surge in violence that started after the Soviet Union fell in 1991, Ingushetia's youth "know nothing but violence, terrorism, and banditry", he said. (Reuters)


Bishkek schools closed with flu quarantine

24 November

Officials in the Kyrgyz capital have introduced a quarantine in all Bishkek schools until November 30 due to a flu epidemic, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports. The Bishkek City Council's press service said that some 30 percent of schoolchildren and about 20 percent of teachers are reportedly sick with the flu. Additionally, there have been about 50 cases of swine flu registered. (RFE/RL)


Jailed Azerbaijani Bloggers Allowed To Meet Parents

24 November

A Baku district court has ruled that two jailed Azerbaijani bloggers may meet with their parents, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports. Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizada were sentenced to 2 1/2 and two years in jail, respectively, on November 11 after being found guilty of "hooliganism and battery." Judge Araz Huseinov has allowed the parents of Hajizada to visit with his parents on November 25, while Milli and his parents will be allowed to meet the following day. The bloggers -- both of whom wrote critically about the government -- were detained after being confronted and scuffling with two men in a Baku restaurant on July 8. Milli and Hajizada were not allowed to meet with their relatives while they were being held in detention. International human rights organizations consider the case against them to be politically motivated and connected to their criticism of the government in their blogs. (RFE/RL)


Price deal close for SOCAR and BOTAS

24 November

Turkish pipeline company BOTAS and the State Oil Co. of Azerbaijan Republic finished a round of price talks for Azeri gas with settlement seen by year's end. Baku has lobbied for a revision to a gas pricing formula for Ankara. The current price is far below current market conditions. Baku also aims to make conditions more attractive for possible gas transits through the Nabucco pipeline for Europe. Nabucco would bring gas from Central Asia and the Middle East to European markets along a route passing through Turkey. SOCAR and BOTAS said they made progress on their negotiations but warned the matter was complex, the Azerbaijan Business Center reports. Rovnag Abdullayev, the president of SOCAR, said pricing terms for Azeri exports from its second phase of the offshore Shah Deniz gas field could develop by the end of the year. "The sides reached certain arrangements," he said. "I believe that soon we will get answers to our questions and achieve full understanding." (UPI)


EU needs solidarity on Nagorno-Karabakh

24 November

The European Union should respect territorial integrity and sovereignty in a common principle for the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, analysts said. Armenia and Azerbaijan went to war over Nagorno-Karabakh in the early 1990s following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Turkish relations with Armenia, meanwhile, are strained by claims of genocide during the Ottoman Empire. Ankara and Yerevan, however, signed protocols aimed at repairing diplomatic relations at an October summit in Zurich, Switzerland. Baku is upset over the deal as Ankara sided with its Azeri partners by closing its border with Armenia during the conflict in the 1990s. Leaders from Azerbaijan and Armenia are in talks with negotiators from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, though few details from that meeting have emerged. Borut Grgic, a non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council, tells the Azeri news agency News.Az that Europe needs a united stance on the conflict. "The EU should start by having a common set of principles that outline its position on the frozen conflicts in the South Caucasus -- respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty are two fundamentals," he said. Baku has threatened in recent days to resort to force should negotiations fail. Grgic said that while conflict was unlikely, the situation was straining regional affairs. (UPI)


Two militants killed in Ingushetia’s Karabulak

24 November

Two militants have been killed after being surrounded  at  a  property  in  Rabochaya  Street  in the town of

Karabulak during a special operation in Ingushetia on Wednesday.  "Two  militants  were  blocked  at a private house. When ordered to surrender  they opened fire against police officers. Both criminals were killed during  the  clash,"  a  source at Ingushetia's Interior Ministry told Interfax. (Interfax)


EU to remove Kazakh airline from blacklist in November – official

25 November

The European Union will remove the Kazakh airline  Berkut  from its 'black list' in late November, Radilbek Adimolda,  the  chairman of the Kazakh Transportation and Communications Ministry's  Civil  Aviation  Committee said in an interview published in Wednesday's issue of Vremya. Adimolda  said  he  had recently provided the Eastern bureau of the International  Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in Paris with a short-term plan  of  measures  Kazakhstan is planning to take so that domestic airlines  meet  the ICAO requirements and then presented a report to the European Commission in Brussels. "We were told in response that the government airline Berkut would be excluded from the black list, and the European Commission should make this decision public by the end of November," he said. Talking  about other Kazakh airlines included in the EU black list, Adimolda  said,  "we  will  work to have them removed from there step by step." It  was reported earlier that the European Union on July 14 had put 70 Kazakh  airlines,  that  is, nearly all of them except Air Astana, on the list of those banned from operating within the EU. During  ICAO's  audit of the Kazakh airlines, it found out that the Kazakh aviation  laws do not comply with the ICAO standards and that the Civil Aviation   Committee   does  not  properly  control  the  national airlines. (Interfax)

Russian free-press advocate moves to Georgia

26 November

The prominent Russian journalist and free-press advocate Oleg Panfilov has moved to Tbilisi. "The main reason for my moving to Georgia is the situation in Russia. It's impossible to live in a country where the authorities lie to you, where media lies to you, and people are afraid of them," Panfilov, who previously ran the Moscow-based Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, told reporters. Panfilov, a longtime critic of the Russian authorities, said he had been receiving death threats.  He took Georgian citizenship last year. In Tbilisi, Panfilov will host a program on a new Russian-language television channel called "Kavkaz Kanal." He will also teach journalism at Tbilisi's Ilia Chavchavadze University. Panfilov also says he hopes to found a journalism school and write a book on the August 2008 Russia-Georgia war. (RFE/RL)

S. Ossetia, Abkhazia could join CIS in the future26 NovemberSouth Ossetia and Abkhazia could become members  of the Commonwealth of Independent States on condition that all of the CIS  member-states  recognize  the sovereignty of these republics and agree  to  admit  them  to  the  CIS,  Chairman of the CIS Executive Committee Sergei Lebedev said. "Our  charter allows the admission of new members on condition that all CIS countries without exception give their consent. It is apparently premature  to  discuss  South  Ossetia  and  Abkhazia's  membership now, because  they  have  not  been recognized by other CIS countries, except Russia," Lebedev said. "When  this  recognition is formalized, the republic's accession to the CIS  could be discussed, if they apply and if all members give their consent," he said. "It is difficult to guess exactly when this may happen," he added. "We  have  regional  communities  in  which  not  only  CIS members participate," Lebedev said. (Interfax)

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