Weekly Digest of Central Asia

BISHKEK (TCA) — The Publisher’s note: Central Asia is an important geopolitical area between Europe, Russia and China. It is in Central Asia that world powers have confronted each other for centuries; it is here that China needs to succeed with its new Silk Road Belt for direct access to the Western markets; and it is here that a large wealth of raw materials has its origin. Every week thousands of news appears all over the world in printed and online media and it is quite understandable that many of them may escape the attention of busy readers. At The Times of Central Asia, we strongly believe that more information can better contribute to peaceful development and better knowledge of the region, and for this reason we are presenting this Weekly Digest of Central Asia which compiles what other media have reported during the past week.


Kazakhstan: California Court to Hear Almaty Corruption Lawsuit

Kazakhstan’s longlasting international legal campaign against a former mayor of Almaty, charged with corruption, has made a progress in the US

March 31 — “Kazakhstan has successfully argued in a US appeals court that it can file suit against a former top official — an avowed foe of the government — in California for compensation over alleged acts of corruption that occurred more than a decade ago.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/83046

Democratization Process in Kazakhstan Unfolds

Indian expert analyzes the latest constitutional reform aimed at state power redistribution in Kazakhstan

April 3 — “After having fully consolidated the state for 25 years, President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan has recently initiated the process of devolving some presidential powers to the Mazhilis (Parliament) and the Government.” READ MORE: http://www.idsa.in/idsacomments/democratization-process-in-kazakhstan-unfolds_pstobdan_030417

At Summit, Aliyev and Nazarbayev Talk Trade and Karabakh

Kazakhstan may become a bridge between Europe and Asia, by opening up a transit and transport route through the Caspian Sea

April 4 — “Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev traveled across the Caspian on an official visit to Azerbaijan, where the agenda focused on trade. The dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan, meanwhile, loomed large, albeit behind the scenes.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/83096

Russia leaves military polygon in Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan is going to use the land under the former military polygon for agriculture and for exploration and mining purposes

April 5 — “Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev has ratified the protocol on cessation of the lease by Russia of Emba military polygon located in Kazakhstan’s Aktobe region, the presidential press-service said in a message April 5.” READ MORE: http://en.trend.az/casia/kazakhstan/2738808.html

Kazakhstan to launch direct flights to Singapore, Tokyo, NYC

As the Kazakh capital Astana will host the international exhibition EXPO 2017 this summer, the country is expanding air service destinations, especially to Europe and Asia

April 5 — “Kazakhstan’s airlines will launch a number of new flights in 2017- 2020, the Kazakh Investment and Development Minister Zhenis Kassymbek wrote in a Facebook post.” READ MORE: http://en.trend.az/casia/kazakhstan/2738742.html

Kazakhstan-focused oilfield developer Caspian Sunrise may have discovered third shallow oil structure

A new oil field seems to have been discovered in Kazakhstan, as the country plans to increase crude production this year after having fulfilled its oil output cut committments

April 6 — “Caspian Sunrise PLC (LON:CASP) thinks it may have uncovered a new oil-bearing structure during the drilling of its latest shallow well. Work on well 808, north of the South Yelemes portion of the BNG Contract Area, Kazakhstan, identified five horizons.” READ MORE: http://www.proactiveinvestors.co.uk/companies/news/176068/kazakhstan-focused-oilfield-developer-caspian-sunrise-may-have-discovered-third-shallow-oil-structure-176068.html


Concerns Mount Over Kyrgyzstan Being Breeding Ground for Terrorists

With a native of Kyrgyzstan being the main suspect of this week’s subway bombing in St. Petersburg, Kyrgyzstan is in the focus of attention as a source of potential terrorists  

April 4 — “Russia’s subway bombing, carried out by a suspected Kyrgyz-born Russian citizen, has again cast concerns on worldwide terrorism associated with the Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan. Monday’s attack in St. Petersburg follows terror incidents in recent years, like the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings — carried out by Chechens who grew up in Kyrgyzstan — and an Istanbul airport attack last June in which one suspect was Kyrgyz.” READ MORE: https://www.voanews.com/a/concerns-mount-kyrgyzstan-breeding-ground-terrorists/3796276.html

Kyrgyzstan: Jailed Opposition Politician Reportedly Attempts Suicide

Detained former opposition lawmaker, Japarov, faces charges of taking a government official hostage in 2013

April 4 — “Officials in Kyrgyzstan have said that opposition politician Sadyr Japarov, who was arrested earlier this month after returning from years of self-imposed exiled, has attempted to commit suicide in prison.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/83091

China, Kyrgyzstan to boost trade, economic cooperation

China remains Kyrgyzstan’s largest foreign partner and investor in the country’s transport and infrastructure projects

April 7 — “Representatives of Chinese companies doing business in Kyrgyzstan met here on Thursday with the country’s First Deputy Prime Minister and co-chairman of the Kyrgyz-Chinese intergovernmental commission Muhammetkaly Abulgaziev. The meeting was also attended by Chinese Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan Xiao Qinghua, the Kyrgyz Government’s press service reported.” READ MORE: http://english.cctv.com/2017/04/07/ARTItwMaxM1n8JPaFK3XI8KU170407.shtml


Tajikistan: Airline War With Russia Resumes. Again

The Tajik-Russia airline dispute stems from a petty disagreement over what airlines are allowed to operate which routes

April 3 — “Russia has once again slapped major restrictions on Tajikistan-based private carrier Somon Air in the latest installment of a long-running saga. The Transportation Ministry in Moscow was candid in a statement over the weekend that it adopted the measure in a tit-for-tat response to Tajikistan’s refusal to grant landing rights to Russia’s Yamal Airlines.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/83076
Tajikistan steps up battle against Islamic clothing

Authorities in Tajikistan campaign against Arab-style head and face coverings like the hijab as part of a crackdown amid the government’s growing fears of Islamist extremism

April 4 — “Clothing factories in Tajikistan are churning out brightly coloured national dresses amid a surge in sales, and it’s not just because of the arrival of spring. An increasing number of female officials, teachers and students have been wearing the Atlas and other traditional dresses following a recommendation by the Central Asian country’s government.” READ MORE: https://uk.news.yahoo.com/tajikistan-steps-battle-against-islamic-clothing-025716929.html

Tajikistan: Difficult Winter Now Visiting Trouble on Pamirs

Landslides and floods have plagued the mountainous areas in Tajikistan every spring, often causing major destructions and human casualties   

April 6 — “In a repeat of events in 2015, the Pamir Mountains in Tajikistan are experiencing a wave of landslides, although careful preventative appears so far to have averted any loss of human life. Since January, the Gorno-Badakhshan autonomous region, GBAO, has endured a string of catastrophes. In the last week alone, the situation has been particularly bad in the regional center, Khorog.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/83136

Milking Turkmenistan’s People To Pay For The Games

State employees have to make the so-called “voluntary donations” — money taken out of their monthly salaries — to pay for a major sporting event Turkmenistan will host this year

March 31 — “Turkmenistan is hosting the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in September, but it is not an event Turkmenistan’s people are likely to remember fondly.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/qishloq-ovozi-milking-turkmen-people-pay-for-games/28403657.html

Why Mammoth Gas Reserves May Be Useless For Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan has huge natural gas reserves but lacks the sales markets for the country’s main export commodity

April 1 — “With Russia and Iran going out of the picture as gas purchasers, Turkmenistan is left with only one buyer of the resource – China. The Asian major started importing natural gas from Turkmenistan in 2010 via a pipeline passing through Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.” READ MORE: https://fronteranews.com/news/asia/why-mammoth-gas-reserves-may-be-useless-for-turkmenistan/

Turkmenistan ups power export

Unlike natural-gas exports, the export of Turkmen electricity is growing with destinations including Afghanistan, Iran, and Turkey

April 6 — “Energy-rich Turkmenistan increased its electricity export in the first quarter of this year, the Turkmen Dovlet Khabarlary reported. Vice-Premier Dadebai Amangeldyev, supervising the electric-power industry, said that 6.2 billion kWh of electricity was generated in the country during the reporting period, which amounts to 106.2 percent, compared to the similar period of 2016.” READ MORE: http://www.azernews.az/region/111080.html

Turkmenistan’s Mysterious ‘Door to Hell’ Has Been in Flames for Over 40 Years

The burning natural-gas crater in the Karakum Desert could become one of Turkmenistan’s tourist attractions

April 3 — “Trek to the heart of Turkmenistan’s Karakum Desert and you could be forgiven for thinking you’ve stumbled upon the gates of the underworld itself. Locals and travelers call the surreal crater the “Door to Hell” — an apt moniker for the Darvaza Gas Crater, which has been perpetually burning for nearly half a century.” READ MORE: http://www.natureworldnews.com/articles/37001/20170403/turkmenistan-mysterious-door-to-hell-has-been-in-flames-for-over-40-years.htm


Little hope for change in Uzbekistan, experts say

Experts say it would be naïve to expect any major changes in Uzbekistan’s politics and reforms for better human rights and freedom of speech with President Mirziyoyev’s coming to power

April 2 — “Uzbek President Mirziyoyev is a loyal but rather low profile ally of Karimov, who himself was a former communist party leader. Known for his repressive and dictatorial policies, Karimov tolerated no political opposition and cracked down on civil and human rights groups, as well as independent media outlets.” READ MORE: https://www.dailysabah.com/asia/2017/04/03/little-hope-for-change-in-uzbekistan-experts-say

Uzbekistan: News Bulletins to Be Broadcast Live

President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has criticized the standard of news programing of Uzbekistan’s state television, speaking about the need of critical and analytical materials

April 5 — “In a potentially seismic break from custom, state television in Uzbekistan has begun broadcasting news bulletins live to air instead of pre-recording the programs.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/83111

Uzbekistan to boost gas supplies to Russia under new contract

Uzbekistan consumes most of its natural gas domestically and exports much of it to China. Now more Uzbek gas will go to Russia

April 5 — “Uzbekistan will scale up gas supplies to Russia on the basis of a five-year contract, President of the country Shavkat Mirziyoyev said on Wednesday during talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Furthermore, the country is interested in exploration to be done by Russian companies, he added.” READ MORE: http://tass.com/economy/939534

Uzbekistan, Russia ink contracts worth 16B

The first visit of Uzbek President Mirziyoyev to Russia resulted in the signing of a package of bilateral economic and investment agreements worth $16 billion

April 6 — “Russian and Uzbek Presidents Vladimir Putin and Shavkat Mirziyoyev discussed development of bilateral relations and exchanged views on a number of current international and regional issues at the talks in Moscow on April 5.” READ MORE: http://www.azernews.az/region/111078.html

Stockholm terror attack suspect ‘is 39-year-old dad from Uzbekistan who was spotted acting strangely in shop during aftermath’

After a Kyrgyz-born man was named the main suspect in this week’s subway bombing in St. Petersburg, another native of Central Asia — now from Uzbekistan — is suspected of carrying out a terrorist act in Stockholm yesterday

April 8 — “The suspect arrested over a deadly terror attack in Stockholm is a 39-year-old dad from Uzbekistan, it has been reported. Swedish police confirmed a suspect had been arrested while local media claim the man has already confessed to his involvement.” READ MORE: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/stockholm-terror-attack-suspect-is-10181884


Does Afghanistan grow more opium poppies than before 2001?

Survey says that in 2016, Afghan farmers were growing poppies on more than 200,000 hectares compared to 74,000 hectares in 2002

April 4 — “President Donald Trump’s budget puts a number of foreign assistance programs at risk, if not outright elimination. His plan to cut about 30 percent from the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development has drawn resistance from both Republicans and Democrats.” READ MORE: http://www.politifact.com/global-news/statements/2017/apr/04/ted-yoho/yoho-afghanistan-poppy-growth-way/

Afghanistan uses lithium, coal and copper to lure Trump support

Afghanistan’s huge mineral resources may attract international investors should the Afghan government be able to ensure greater security in the war-torn country

April 6 — “The Afghan government is trying to grab the attention of President Donald Trump and gain greater U.S. support by dangling its massive and untouched wealth of minerals, including lithium, the silvery metal used in mobile phone and computer batteries that is considered essential to modern life.” READ MORE: http://www.montereyherald.com/government-and-politics/20170406/afghanistan-uses-lithium-coal-and-copper-to-lure-trump-support

US cites progress against Islamic State in Afghanistan

Islamic State militants, who confront both government forces and the Taliban, do not represent a serious threat in Afghanistan now

April 6 — “A U.S. military spokesman says Afghan and international forces have reduced the territory controlled by Islamic State militants in Afghanistan by two-thirds and killed around half the affiliate’s fighters in the last two years.” READ MORE: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/us-cites-progress-against-islamic-state-in-afghanistan/2017/04/06/70609d38-1ace-11e7-8598-9a99da559f9e_story.html

Security concerns scaring off Indonesian investors in Afghanistan: VP Kalla

The ongoing fighting between government forces and the Taliban and the overall insecurity are the main deterrant to foreign investment in Afghanistan

April 6 — “Security concerns remain as one of the primary reasons behind Indonesian businesspeople’s decision to avoid investment opportunities in Afghanistan, Vice President Jusuf Kalla has said. “Very few businessmen are interested in investing in areas with high security issues,” said Kalla as quoted by Antara after meeting with Afghanistan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani in Jakarta on Thursday.” READ MORE: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/06/security-concerns-scaring-off-indonesian-investors-in-afghanistan-vp-kalla.html


Why Central Asia Won’t Go to War

Analyst says that diplomatically and domestically, Central Asia’s governments can not afford a full-blown conflict

April 5 — “The Central Asian region has historically been the flashpoint of struggles for influence, power, and resources. The current geopolitics of this landscape are no exception, as there are serious sources of tension. Territorial and border disputes complemented by historic and ethnic animosities might at some point boil over into conflict between any of two countries in the region. Above all, the dispute over scarce water resources has made some think the situation might escalate into a potential full-blown conflict.” READ MORE: http://thediplomat.com/2017/04/why-central-asia-wont-go-to-war/

Beijing is gearing up for $1 trillion in investments to bring China closer to the world

China’s One Belt, One Road project involves a $1 trillion mega-investment to transform China’s transport and trade links through Eurasia, Central Asia, and South-East Asia

April 6 — “Beijing is gearing up for a major diplomatic offensive in May as it welcomes Vladimir Putin among 20 international leaders for a summit on building a “new Silk Road” to bring China closer to the world. This is the One Belt, One Road project – the centerpiece of Chinese international engagement.” READ MORE: https://uk.news.yahoo.com/beijing-gearing-1-trillion-investments-011700200.html

U.S. strikes Syrian military airfield in first direct assault on Bashar al-Assad’s government

The US air strikes at a Syrian airfield expose the United States to heightened risk of direct confrontation with Russia and Iran that back Assad

April 7 — “The U.S. military launched 59 cruise missiles at a Syrian military airfield late on Thursday, in the first direct American assault on the government of President Bashar al-Assad since that country’s civil war began six years ago.” READ MORE: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/trump-weighing-military-options-following-chemical-weapons-attack-in-syria/2017/04/06/0c59603a-1ae8-11e7-9887-1a5314b56a08_story.html

Sergey Kwan


Sergey Kwan has worked for The Times of Central Asia as a journalist, translator and editor since its foundation in March 1999. Prior to this, from 1996-1997, he worked as a translator at The Kyrgyzstan Chronicle, and from 1997-1999, as a translator at The Central Asian Post.
Kwan studied at the Bishkek Polytechnic Institute from 1990-1994, before completing his training in print journalism in Denmark.

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