• KGS/USD = 0.01126 0%
  • KZT/USD = 0.00225 0%
  • TJS/USD = 0.09196 0.77%
  • UZS/USD = 0.00008 0%
  • KGS/USD = 0.01126 0%
  • KZT/USD = 0.00225 0%
  • TJS/USD = 0.09196 0.77%
  • UZS/USD = 0.00008 0%
  • KGS/USD = 0.01126 0%
  • KZT/USD = 0.00225 0%
  • TJS/USD = 0.09196 0.77%
  • UZS/USD = 0.00008 0%
  • KGS/USD = 0.01126 0%
  • KZT/USD = 0.00225 0%
  • TJS/USD = 0.09196 0.77%
  • UZS/USD = 0.00008 0%
  • KGS/USD = 0.01126 0%
  • KZT/USD = 0.00225 0%
  • TJS/USD = 0.09196 0.77%
  • UZS/USD = 0.00008 0%
  • KGS/USD = 0.01126 0%
  • KZT/USD = 0.00225 0%
  • TJS/USD = 0.09196 0.77%
  • UZS/USD = 0.00008 0%
  • KGS/USD = 0.01126 0%
  • KZT/USD = 0.00225 0%
  • TJS/USD = 0.09196 0.77%
  • UZS/USD = 0.00008 0%
  • KGS/USD = 0.01126 0%
  • KZT/USD = 0.00225 0%
  • TJS/USD = 0.09196 0.77%
  • UZS/USD = 0.00008 0%

Our People > Times of Central Asia

Times of Central Asia's Avatar

Jonathan Campion

Senior Editor

Jonathan Campion has worked in the Eurasia region since 2007. After leaving Exeter University with a degree in Russian Language, he worked as a writer, editor, analyst and translator for international law firms, market research firms and business forums serving the CIS region's major industries, from banking and finance, to metals and pharmaceuticals, and wine and spirits. With a passion for Central Asia, he has covered the region in esteemed publications such as the Lonely Planet, Open Central Asia magazine, and National Geographic Traveler. divider He has translated books and poems from the region into English, and will be publishing his first book, about a sports team that saved lives at the start of Russia-Ukraine war, in April of 2024.

Articles

Kyrgyzstan Battles Misinformation about Vaccines as Measles Cases Rise

Dear parents! Vaccinate your child.  That’s the message from the health ministry in Kyrgyzstan, where the number of reported measles cases this year has soared to nearly 8,000 despite government efforts to overcome the anti-vaccine sentiment fueling the outbreak.  “It has been proven that there is no connection between vaccinations and autism!” Kyrgyzstan’s health ministry said this month on Facebook. The announcement cited British and American medical studies in the last few decades that it said confirm “there is no biological link between vaccination and morbidity.” Despite the campaign, at least 7,864 cases of measles have been reported in the Central Asian country as of April 8, according to the Republican Center for Immunoprophylaxis, a health ministry organization that oversees vaccinations. The 24.kg news agency reported “intense circulation” of the virus that causes measles in Bishkek, Chui and Jalal-Abad regions. In December, UNICEF said cases of measles in Europe and Central Asia had skyrocketed by 3000 percent in 2023, in comparison to the previous year, and that a backsliding in vaccine coverage was responsible. It said Kazakhstan had the highest rate of measles cases, though officials there reported in March that cases were in decline after a successful vaccination drive. Kyrgyzstan had the second highest rate at the time.  “A decrease in vaccine demand – in part fuelled by misinformation and mistrust which worsened during and following the COVID-19 pandemic, disruption to health services and weak primary health care systems are some of the contributing factors,” the U.N. agency said.  Nine children died from measles in Kyrgyzstan in 2023, according to the government.  The Health Ministry says “myths” about vaccines include the belief that they contain dangerous preservatives; Europe is testing new drugs by sending them to Kyrgyzstan as humanitarian aid; and that it’s better to let a child get sick and develop natural immunity rather than get the shot. Measles, which is highly contagious, infects the respiratory tract and then spreads around the body. The vaccine, the World Health Organization says, is safe and effective. 

2 weeks ago

Kyrgyzstan Assassination Plot: Suspected Crime Boss Raimbek Matraimov Held in Pretrial Detention

The corrupt Kyrgyz oligarch Raimbek Matraimov will spend the next month in pretrial detention in Bishkek, after the former deputy head of Kyrgyzstan’s customs service was extradited from Azerbaijan on Tuesday. Matraimov, once known as the country’s “kingmaker” for the influence his clan held over the Kyrgyz Government, was found to have profited from corrupt schemes he ran at the customs service, laundering at least $700 million for himself by allowing companies to evade import fees. In October 2020, upon the formation of a new government led by President Sadyr Japarov, Matraimov was ordered to repay $22.3 million in damages and restitution back to the state. However, rather than fall in line with Kyrgyzstan’s crackdown on organized crime, in recent years Raimbek Matraimov appears to have remained outside the law. The former official is now suspected of orchestrating a recent plot to assassinate members of Kyrgyzstan’s current leadership in retribution for the government’s fight against organized crime. It is the discovery of this plot that led Kyrgyz law enforcement to request Matraimov’s extradition this week from Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital, along with his three brothers, Tilek, Islambek, and Ruslan. Of the Matraimov brothers’ seizure in Azerbaijan, the Kyrgyz State Committee for National Security (CNSK) commented: “In this regard, on March 22, employees of the CNSK carried out operational and investigative measures, as a result of which all the above-mentioned persons were detained [in Baku]. Currently, investigative measures are being carried out to bring them to justice, according to the laws of Kyrgyzstan.” On Wednesday, March 27, the Birinchi Mai district court in Bishkek ruled that Raimbek Matraimov must stay in pretrial detention at the CNSK’s detention center until at least April 26. Officially, he is suspected of “money laundering and the abduction and illegal incarceration of unnamed individuals”. Matraimov had already been placed on the U.S. Treasury Department’s sanctions list, and the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act (the ‘Magnitsky Act’), for his previous crimes at the customs service.

4 weeks ago

Optimism Meets Reality at the B5+1 Forum in Almaty

The inaugural B5+1 Forum, a conference dedicated to strengthening business between the five Central Asian republics and the United States, came to a close today in Almaty after a second well received day of panel discussions. The B5+1 Forum was created by the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), which aims to use public-private partnerships to create a better environment for business and trade. The B5+1 platform brings international and local companies together with high-ranking government officials from all six countries, to learn about the difficulties that each side faces, and suggest new ways to attract partners and investment. Following an opening day focused on “Looking within Central Asia”, today’s speakers brought attention to “Central Asia’s place in the world economy”. The morning began with a keynote speech by Eurasian affairs expert S. Frederick Starr, who argued that because the five countries are now members of different trade blocs, the revival of the Central Asian Economic Union could break down their existing barriers to business and trade with the United States. During a morning session on international partnerships, foreign experts brainstormed ways to speed up the Central Asia region’s economic integration with the rest of the world. To an audience of business leaders whose overall mood was optimistic, the EU’s ambassador to Kazakhstan Kestutis Jankauskas and World Bank economist David Knight brought a dose of realism, by explaining that business in Central Asia is not performing as well as in other emerging regions. This, they both said, is because the governments – and business owners – have mostly still not let go of self-defeating ways of approaching markets and investment. The middle session went into more detail about the investment landscape, particularly in terms of IT and fintech. Jennifer Miel, executive director for Kazakhstan for the US Chamber of Commerce, mentioned that all five Central Asian countries have seen healthy increases in foreign direct investment since 2021. This was soon tempered by Anatoly Motkin of the agency StrategEast, who said that to achieve further sustainable growth, the region must unify its legislation and best practices, so that foreign investors can treat it as a single market as much as possible. The Forum’s closing session explored the role of business associations in public-private dialogue. The panel was moderated by Eric Hontz, CIPE’s director for accountable investments, and featured the executive directors of the US Chambers of Commerce in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – Aisuluu Sydygalieva, Nilufar Bulbulshoeva and Tatyana Bystrushkina. Discussion centered on best practices and solutions for effective member representation. The B5+1 Forum forms part of CIPE’s program called “Improving the Business Environment in Central Asia” (IBECA). CIPE themselves are affiliated to the US Chamber of Commerce – the catalyst behind the B7 and B20 platforms – and receive funding from the US Department of State. Early indications are that the B5+1 Forum in 2025 will be held in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

1 month ago

High-Profile Speakers Open B5+1 Forum in Almaty

The ‘B5+1’ platform – a group of countries comprising the five Central Asian republics and the United States – took an important step forward today, with the launch of the inaugural B5+1 Forum in Almaty.  Instrumental in the formation of the B5+1 group has been the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), which aims to develop public-private partnerships in the Central Asia region. This new business platform has been created to help international and local companies to capitalize on opportunities in global business and trade – while assisting the six governments in attracting more direct foreign investment.  The theme of the opening day was “Looking within Central Asia”. It began with a panel discussion on boosting economic integration in the Central Asia region, drawing from the area's distinctive context, and successful examples like ASEAN and the EU. Recommendations, from panelists including Richard E. Hoagland of the Caspian Policy Center and Alisher Shaykhov from Uzbekistan’s National Venture Capital Fund, included integrating the region's value chain into the global economy, and promoting collaborative investment initiatives. The second panel offered perspectives from Central Asia’s business leaders. Panelists including B5+1 representatives Aziza Shuzheyeva (Kazakhstan, e-commerce) and Manusurjon Rasulev (Uzbekistan, agribusiness) gave insights into the region’s high-profile industries. Speakers advocated for policy synchronization in these sectors, as well as in tourism and trade, as a means to boost regional growth.  For the third panel, government officials voiced their support for enhancing public-private dialogue. Tajikistan was represented by its deputy minister for economy Ahliddin Nuriddinzoda; his counterpart Ainura Usenbekova spoke on behalf of Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan’s minister of finance Serdar Jorayev also spoke at length. Their focus was on national reforms and regional integration. The B5+1 Forum forms part of CIPE’s program called “Improving the Business Environment in Central Asia” (IBECA). CIPE themselves are affiliated to the US Chamber of Commerce – the catalyst behind the B7 and B20 platforms – and receive funding from the US Department of State. The B5+1 Forum continues tomorrow, Friday 15 March, with a thematic day dedicated to “Central Asia’s place in the world economy”.

1 month ago

CIPE’s Inaugural B5+1 Forum Opens in Almaty

In recent years the countries of Central Asia have taken more confident steps towards working with the United States and Europe, so that both local and international companies and agencies can capitalize on the region’s potential.  Instrumental in this process has been the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), which last year created the diplomatic ‘C5+1’ platform – a group comprising the governments of the five Central Asian republics – Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan – plus the United States, whose State Department has been integral to the development of the platform. Following the first C5+1 Summit in New York in September 2023, led by the presidents of all six countries, CIPE has now created a dedicated business platform for these nations: ‘B5+1’. The inaugural B5+1 Forum will be held in Kazakhstan’s business capital of Almaty this week, and will bring together policy makers from Central Asia, America and other countries, as well as high-profile private companies working in the region.  At the C5+1 Summit, presidents Biden, Tokayev, Mirziyoyev, Japarov, Rahmon and Berdymuhamedov had committed to the establishment of B5+1 in order to “accelerate regional cooperation and connectivity [and]… advance efforts to create a more favorable business environment for U.S. private sector trade and investment in Central Asia.” The B5+1 event will be divided into two thematic days: “Looking within Central Asia” on Thursday 14 March, where representatives of the US Department of State, Kazakhstan’s Ministry of National Economy, the Caspian Policy Center and others will present their visions for improving Central Asia’s investment climate and economic integration; and “Central Asia’s place in the world economy” on Friday 15 March, where leaders from the US-Kazakhstan Business Council, the American-Uzbekistan Chamber of Commerce, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and others will look outwards, to give an international perspective on how the region can grow its trade and investment volumes. At a time of geopolitical upheaval and disruption of existing supply chains, the Almaty forum will also continue the conversation on enhancing regional connectivity via the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route, also known as the Trans-Caspian Corridor. The B5+1 Forum forms part of CIPE’s program called “Improving the Business Environment in Central Asia” (IBECA). CIPE themselves are affiliated to the US Chamber of Commerce – the catalyst behind the B7 and B20 platforms – and receive funding from the US Department of State.  The establishment of B5+1 is closely aligned with commitments made during the September C5+1 Presidential Summit and outlined in a document called the New York Declaration to strengthen their economic relations, and improve the business environment for regional economic integration and investments. The upcoming Forum aims to deliver on two key commitments in the declaration. The Times of Central Asia will be in attendance at the B5+1 Forum on 14-15 March, and will be publishing insight and analysis from the event.

1 month ago

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