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: Former Economy Minister Detained in Corruption Probe

Another high-profile corruption case is taking place in Kazakhstan, an oil-rich country where corruption remains rampant

Jan 10 — “Anti-corruption investigators have reportedly detained recently dismissed National Economy Minister Kuandyk Bishimbayev on suspicion of taking bribes. Tengri news website on January 10 cited the Agency for Civil Service Affairs and Anti-Corruption as saying Bishimbayev has been taken into custody and is being held at an Interior Ministry pre-trial facility in Astana pending investigations. Bishimbayev was fired by presidential decree on December 28 and replaced by Timur Suleimenov.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/81901

Kazakhstan: Trade Union Shut Down

After Kazakhstan, in 2014, introduced a restrictive trade union law, international rights watchdogs have criticized the country for not respecting international labor standards

Jan 10 — “An economic court in Kazakhstan on January 4, 2017, ordered the permanent closure of an independent trade union body, the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Kazakhstan, Human Rights Watch said today. The ruling is an egregious violation of the freedom of association and should be quashed.” READ MORE: https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/01/10/kazakhstan-trade-union-shut-down

Nazarbaev Sets Kazakhstan’s Priorities As UN Security Council Member

Kazakhstan has become a non-permanent UN Security Council member for 2017-2018, which testifies to the country’s growing authority in the international arena  

Jan 11 — “Kazakhstan will promote the interests of the five former Soviet republics of Central Asia during its 2017-18 stint in the UN Security Council, President Nursultan Nazarbaev says. On January 1, Kazakhstan became the first of the five countries — which also include Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan — to hold a seat on the 15-nation council. Its permanent members are the United States, Russia, China, Britain, and France.” READ MORE: http://www.rferl.org/a/kazakhstan-un-security-council-nazarbaev-sets-priorities/28225627.html

Ageing Kazakh leader gives green light to constitutional reforms

As power succession remains a relevant issue in Kazakhstan, the country’s longtime president has reportedly taken a step towards potential power redistribution

Jan 11 — “Kazakhstan’s veteran leader Nursultan Nazarbayev gave the green light on Wednesday for constitutional reforms that could dilute the sweeping powers he has amassed as president and force his eventual successor to share power with other institutions.” READ MORE: http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-kazakhstan-president-reform-idUKKBN14V1X4

Russia to Deliver 4 Mi-35M Attack Helicopters to Kazakhstan in 2018

Russia is taking efforts to maintain its military influence on Central Asian countries, and Kazakhstan, as China’s influence grows in the region

Jan 11 — “The Russian Helicopters holding, part of the Rostec state corporation, will deliver four Mil Mi-35M attack helicopters to Kazakhstan in 2018 under a deal signed with the country’s Defense Ministry, the manufacturer said Wednesday.” READ MORE: https://sputniknews.com/military/201701111049474811-kazakhstan-helicopters-russia-mi35m/

Why China launched a freight train to London via Kazakhstan and Russia

Kazakhstan is turning into a major transit route for China’s increasing rail cargo shipments to Europe

Jan 13 — “In the beginning of 2017, China launched yet another railway freight route to Europe. The new route connects the city of Yiwu in eastern Zhejiang province with London, making it the longest railway freight route in the world. It takes 18 days to cover the journey of 12,000 km, and the train passes through Kazakhstan, the European part of Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, Belgium and France, before reaching the UK.” READ MORE: http://rbth.com/business/2017/01/13/why-china-launched-a-freight-train-to-london-via-kazakhstan-and-russia_680196


Uighurs in Kyrgyzstan hope for peace despite violence

The Uighur community in Kyrgyzstan is concerned by local media efforts to tie Uighur activism with “global terrorism” and separatist organizations in China’s Xinjiang

Jan 8 — “There is a significant Uighur community in Kyrgyzstan. Uighurs migrated to Kyrgyzstan from Xinjiang in the mid-1950s, says Rosjan Kurbanov, head of the “Ittipak” ethnic Uighur cultural organisation’s chapter in south Kyrgyzstan, seeking to escape repressive Communist rule in China.” READ MORE: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2016/09/uighurs-kyrgyzstan-hope-piece-violence-160915133619696.html

Chinese businessmen not interested in idle factories in Kyrgyzstan

Chinese investors are ready to build new industrial facilities in Kyrgyzstan and only need the local government’s support

Jan 10 — “Instead of launch of 42 standing idle factories, the Chinese businessmen want to build new in empty industrial zones. This was stated today at a meeting of the parliamentary committee on economic and fiscal policy.” READ MORE: http://www.eng.24.kg/economics/183653-news24.html

Shadow government of Kyrgyzstan includes 3 parties, 7 NGOs

Kyrgyz opposition has formed a “shadow government” that would act as a “constructive” opposition to the current government

Jan 12 — “Memorandum on the establishment of a shadow government was signed by the leader of ErK, Taza Kyrgyzstan and Ishenim parties, and as for NGOs – The Union of Muslims of Kyrgyzstan. The leader of ErK Tursunbay Bakir uulu informed 24.kg news agency.” READ MORE: http://www.eng.24.kg/community/183690-news24.html


Tajikistan Protests Remarks By Afghan Ambassador To Russia

The Afghan ambassador to Russia said that Tajiks and Russians were behind illegal drug production in Afghanistan

Jan 12 — “The Tajik Foreign Ministry says that it summoned the Afghan ambassador in Dushanbe late in December and lodged a diplomatic protest over remarks made by the Afghan ambassador to Russia. The ministry said on January 12 that a protest note was handed to the Afghan ambassador in Dushanbe, Zalmai Yunusi, on December 31. The ministry’s statement comes several days after an interview with the Afghan ambassador to Russia, Abdul Qayum Kochi, circulated on YouTube.” READ MORE: http://www.rferl.org/a/tajikistan-afghanistan-ambassador-comments-drugs/28227943.html

Tajikistan: President’s Son Named Dushanbe Mayor

The latest move of President Rakhmon suggests he is paving the way for his eldest son to the country’s presidency

Jan 12 — “The 29-year old son of Tajikistan’s president continued his speedy ascendancy through high office on January 12 with his appointment as mayor of the capital city. Rustam Emomali will take over from the long-serving Mahmadsaid Ubaidulloev, an ultimate insider who has run Dushanbe for 19 years.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/81941

All Tajikistan’s TV channels expected to be broadcast in HD image format by 2020

Tajik national TV channels improve the quality of broadcasting and plan to increase the number of analytical programs this year

Jan 13 — “All Tajikistan’s TV channels are expected to be broadcast in high definition (HD) image format in three years. By 2020, all Tajikistan’s television channels will be broadcast in HD image format, senior representatives of the Committee for TV and Radio-broadcasting under the Government of Tajikistan told reporters in Dushanbe on January 13.” READ MORE: https://www.news.tj/en/news/tajikistan/society/20170113/235470


Senagat JSC Bank is the Bank of the Year in Turkmenistan by the Banker financial magazine

A commercial bank in Turkmenistan awarded for support of domestic production manufacturers and contribution to entrepreneurship development in the country

Jan 10 — “In the framework of annual award ceremony of the awards «Bank of the Year Awards 2016», which was organized in London by one of the leading financial magazines the Banker, the part of Financial Times Group, Senagat Joint Stock Commercial Bank was awarded the title the Bank of the Year in Turkmenistan in 2016.” READ MORE: http://turkmenistan.gov.tm/_eng/?id=7334

Turkmenistan is using anti-smoking laws to crack down on the media

Observers say the Turkmen government is using its new anti-tobacco legislation to stifle dissent and silence its critics

Jan 10 — “Turkmenistan’s strong anti-tobacco position may have met with praise from international health organisations, but they are yet to speak out about the persecution of journalists under the regime.” READ MORE: https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/amanda-clarkson/turkmenistan-is-using-anti-smoking-laws-to-crack-down-on-media

NGW Magazine: Turkmenistan paints itself into a corner

Turkmenistan badly needs to diversify its natural-gas export routes as China has remained the only importer of Turkmen gas now

Jan 11 — “A sudden decision to halt gas supplies to Iran has forced Turkmenistan into overwhelming dependence on China for hard currency income – if it cannot find European markets.” READ MORE: http://www.naturalgasworld.com/ngw-magazine-turkmenistan-paints-itself-into-a-corner-35321


Uzbekistan Nixes Visa-Free Plans, Dismaying Tourism Sector

Uzbekistan’s efforts to develop its tourism sector and attract more foreign tourists have encountered obstacles  

Jan 9 — “Uzbekistan has performed a shock about-face on its tourist visa policy by cancelling plans to allow citizens of 27 countries to travel to the country visa-free as of April. A document posted on the government legislation portal Lex.uz on January 9 stated that the visa-free regime will only come into force in 2021.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/81881

National air company O’zbekiston havo yo’llari to receive four more Boeing Dreamliners

Uzbekistan’s national airline currently operates two Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners on routes to Europe and Asia, and will soon extend its air fleet

Jan 10 — “NAC “O’zbekiston havo yo’llari” will receive four more airplanes of the new generation Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner. The new contract with “Boeing” corporation was signed within the framework of modernization and unification of air park. The press service of the air company informs that the delivery of aircraft is expected in 2019-2020.” READ MORE: http://economics.uzreport.uz/news_e_147299.html

Uzbekistan’s new president promises reform, but can he deliver?

With the election of Shavkat Mirziyoyev as Uzbekistan’s new president last December, the country expects reforms to liberalize its tightly-controlled economy. But will such hopes materialize?  

Jan 12 — “Two men rushed over to an approaching car in a dark market alley. After a brief exchange of words, the driver handed over a few $100 notes and received a pile of Uzbek som in return. The scene, a common sight in the isolated Central Asian nation of Uzbekistan, is a consequence of government restrictions on the circulation of foreign currency. Newly elected President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has promised to reform policies that have driven such activity into the black market.” READ MORE: http://asia.nikkei.com/magazine/TUNE-UP-TIME-FOR-VIETNAM/Politics-Economy/Uzbekistan-s-new-president-promises-reform-but-can-he-deliver


U.S. Report Warns Afghan Forces Not Capable Of Securing Country

Fighting between the Taliban and government troops have increased in Afghanistan in recent months, deteriorating the security situation in the country

Jan 11 — “Afghanistan needs a “stable security environment to prevent it from again becoming a safe haven for Al-Qaeda or other terrorists,” a U.S. report says. The report was released on January 11 by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), which gives independent oversight of U.S. reconstruction funds for the country.” READ MORE: http://www.rferl.org/a/afghanistan-forces-unable-to-secure-country/28226302.html

Russia Returns to Afghanistan

Analysts say that Russia could ally with China and Pakistan to create an alternative bloc to the U.S-led coalition in Afghanistan

Jan 12 — “Surprisingly, Afghanistan is emerging as another arena in which Moscow is pointedly working at odds with Washington’s interests. Indeed, recent moves by Russia now represent a pivot toward Afghanistan, posing a set of challenges that have been unanticipated by U.S. observers of the region. The incoming Trump Administration ought to be aware of Russia’s newfound assertiveness vis-à-vis Afghanistan, both in the threats it poses as well as the potential opportunities it may present.” READ MORE: http://nationalinterest.org/feature/russia-returns-afghanistan-19040

World powers jostle in Afghanistan’s new ‘Great Game’

The Taliban’s role in Afghanistan may strengthen even further as reports claim that Russia and Iran make “contacts” with the Taliban

Jan 12 — “Afghanistan’s strategic landscape is changing as regional powers forge links with the Taliban and vie to outdo each other in what’s being seen as a new ‘Great Game’.” READ MORE: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-38582323


The Islamic State in 2017: Rotting From the Outside In

Stratfor presents its forecast for the jihadist movement in 2017

Jan 12 — “The Islamic State has entered into a slow decline that will continue throughout 2017. After its inception, the group energized the jihadist movement and drew thousands of enthusiastic foreign fighters by announcing the creation of a caliphate and assuring its followers that the end of the world was near. This enabled the Islamic State to rapidly amass manpower and capabilities — at least at first. But both time and geography have worked against the organization since its initial proclamation of a caliphate and an impending apocalypse.” READ MORE: https://www.stratfor.com/weekly/islamic-state-2017-rotting-outside?id=be1ddd5371&uuid=7ca13aa5-5ece-40ed-b13a-d45669282af6

Trump ‘willing to work with Russia and China’

The incoming US administration is going to improve relations with Russia and cooperate with China, both countries having a big influence on Central Asia

Jan 14 — “US President-elect Donald Trump says he is willing to work with Russia and China, providing they cooperate. Mr Trump told the Wall Street Journal that newly-imposed sanctions on Russia would remain “at least for a period of time” but could then be lifted. He also said the One China policy, in which the US no longer acknowledges Taiwan, was up for negotiation.” READ MORE: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-38621025

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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